The Real Reason We’re Addicted to Social Media

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Yesterday, this is the number of times I checked the following applications, whether on my phone, tablet, or laptop:

  • Facebook: 9
  • LinkedIn: 5
  • TweetDeck: 17
  • Instagram: 4

Now, let’s say I spent an average of 4 minutes on site every time I checked one of these social media platforms:

35 x 4 minutes = 140 minutes = 2.3 hours

Unbelievable.

Now, let’s say, on average, I can produce $1,000 in revenue with an hour of my time if I’m working on the right project.

That means I lost $2,300 in revenue in a single day in order to check social media platforms that generated a return of exactly $0 for me. This does not even begin to account for the time I waste click on the link bait I find via Twitter and LinkedIn, or the time it takes to switch tasks and move in and out of a flow state (which is when all of us do our best work). 

I’m willing to bet that if you’re reading this, you struggle with a very similar issue. Even if you aren’t tracking the time you spend on social media, you probably suspect that it’s too much. I’m guessing you feel like it’s wasted time, too. 

But, even intuitively knowing that, most of us don’t do anything differently. And I think it’s because we aren’t addressing the reason why we are so addicted to social media in the first place. 

We don’t constantly check these platforms because it’s a purpose-driven activity. And often, we aren’t really checking them to see what else is going on in the world and with our friends, even if that’s the excuse we dole out.

We check them because they fulfill a core human drive for connection and meaning. 

When we go on these sites, our underlying drive is to satisfy that innate need to connect to others. It comforts us and fulfills us to know that we are not alone. Unintentionally (but unavoidably), we also use what’s going on in other people’s lives to create context and meaning for what’s going on in our own. Social comparison is a real and dangerous thing.

That’s why so many research scholars are reporting on the correlations between social media usage and low self-esteem or depression. We all want people to see the best sides of us, rather than all sides of us. It’s like an ongoing, inaccurate first impression of how perfect we all are that just isn’t aligned with reality. So there we are, all looking at each other’s highly curated snapshot lives, and judging our own realities accordingly (usually as “less than”). 

We’re also addicted to social media because we crave meaning—feeling like we matter to those around us. To be totally honest, ever since I started writing daily blog posts and sharing it with the world on Twitter and Facebook, I check both platforms more frequently. It gives me internal comfort and satisfaction to know that what I say matters; that I’ve had a positive impact on those who read my writing.

In some weird, twisted way, we associate “likes,” comments and shares with self-worth. 

This is not good. 

It’s not good for a host of reasons:

1.) Everything we process and put out into the digital ether is merely a perception. 

We enable people to create mental constructs about who we are that aren’t fully accurate or representative of our hearts, souls, triumphs, and struggles. They aren’t representative of our humanness.  And it surely distorts our reality—not just about others, or others about us, but also how we view ourselves.

2.) It distracts us from real work. 

The math above says is all. Wasting literally hours on an activity that has been shown to decrease self-esteem, cultivate gross feelings like jealousy and envy, and generate an ROI of $0 for us personally? That’s outrageous. And it distracts us from doing the really incredible work we’re all capable of producing and shipping every day. We are able to create incredible stuff to make other people’s lives and the world at large better…and instead, we squander our time to feel some short-term, shallow variation of connectedness and meaning. 

3.) We start to believe it’s all about us. 

But here’s what I think is the biggest problem of all: the overuse of social media perpetuates our focus on self. It trains us to make snap judgments about others, as well as our own self-worth in context of who we paint others to be. 

It’s time for us to step back—physically, emotionally, intellectually—and realize that no matter what our minds are thinking or feelings are feeling, we’re not on this planet for self-validation.

Honestly, think about that:

You’re greatest purpose on this planet is not simply to validate yourself.

And if you believe it is, you are grossly underestimating your potential and limiting your capacity for genuine joy. 

I truly believe that those who lead the richest, most meaningful lives spend the least amount of time focusing on or worrying about themselves and what everyone else thinks of them. Basically, they engage in behaviors opposite of the behaviors we engage in when we’re processing the world via a social media platform.

Obviously, we’re human. None of us are perfectly efficient or rational. I’m not going to turn around ban social media from my life, and I know you probably won’t either. There is true value in it—these platforms can be a source of genuine offline connection and understanding if used appropriately. But deriving value from these platforms doesn’t require 2.3 hours (or more) of my day. Spending that much time immersed in an illusory world is simply not healthy. 

What I will suggest is that we take a lot of the time we’ve been spending on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, you name it—and instead, use that time to connect to the real reason we’re all here:

  • To love people as best as we possibly can. 
  • To honestly and vulnerably share our entire story with others, complete with triumph and tragedy, knowing that’ll give others the courage to do the same.
  • To show others and ourselves enormous amounts of grace in times of hardship and fallibility. 
  • To give a ton of love to situations and people, even and especially when it’s truly difficult to do so.
  • To understand that forgiveness is the profound capacity to recognize the innocence in everyone. 
  • And to be deeply compassionate and invested in the highest well-being of those around us, above and before the desire for our own self-validation.

If we did all of these things at least 2.3 hours a day, I can only imagine how exponentially more incredible the world—and the quality of our own lives—would become. 

If You’re Not Succeeding at Accomplishing Your Goals, This is the #1 Reason Why.

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Yesterday, we talked about how to plan and analyze the current way you spend your time. Once you know exactly what work and ongoing tasks you’re doing that generate the greatest return on investment (the 20% of work generating 80% of your results), it’s time to figure out how to do more of the stuff that’s making a difference through goal setting.

Goal-setting is a hotly and widely talked about topic. It sounds pretty straightforward: Figure out what you want to accomplish choose a specific goal, and then create some benchmarks so you can assess how you’re performing. Right?

Except that plan doesn’t work. How many times have you set a goal, and it just didn’t materialize? So, you’re sitting there wondering, “Is it me? Am I not smart enough? Motivated enough? Skilled enough? Do I need a bigger network? Do I need more money?” When you don’t hit your goals, you start to feel like it’s you that’s lacking something. 

And that’s because you are. 

But it’s not smarts, skills, or motivation you’re lacking. You’re lacking a roadmap. You’re lacking a list of extremely simple habits you can adopt every single day, one or two at a time, that will actually allow you to turn a dream into something real.

But more than any of that, you’re lacking authentic connection to what it is you really want to accomplish.

I can’t stand all the crappy advice out there. It’s like listening to a broken record on repeat. The same advice gets doled out over and over again:

  • Create a “big picture” of what you want to accomplish in life
  • Create a personal mission statement
  • Break down your big goals with smaller goals on a to-do list
  • Make sure your goal is specific
  • Make sure your goal is attainable
  • Give yourself a deadline
  • Make your goal public 
  • Ask someone to help keep you accountable

Maybe those are all useful components of goal-setting, but having tried all of them myself, I can tell you that no matter how smart, skilled, and motivated you are to achieve, this is not a comprehensive list—or even the right list—of what you need to do to achieve goals. 

I’m going to start in this post with the hardest part of goal setting. 

You need to have goals you’re truly connected to. Not things you kinda sorta want to do. Not things your parents or friends or bosses think you should do. Your goals need to be so close to your heart and spirit. People forget that “motivation” is not why people succeed. It’s not that successful people have more motivation than others. We all have incredibly lazy days. We’re human beings, not robots. 

The #1 reason people don’t accomplish their goals is because the goals are not tied close enough to that person’s sense of self—they don’t make someone think, “I was put on this planet to accomplish this goal.” If you don’t feel that connected to what you’re doing, you’re simply not going to thrive. Period. End of story. 

This applies to every single area of your life: relationships, work, hobbies, skills you want to acquire, health, etc. If you’re not super connected in the right ways to your goals, you may get by. You may even “do well.” But you’re not going to thrive. Thriving happens when you’re super-aligned with your personal purpose. You could make a mediocre relationship work. You could lose some weight. You could check off a bunch of to-dos at a job you don’t really enjoy. 

Why why? What’s the point in that? 

I can attribute every single goal I’ve accomplished or area I’ve thrived in to one simple reality: those things were all absolutely at the core of who I am and who I want to be.

Some of you may be reading this now thinking to yourself, “Well, that’s really easy for you to say that, Melissa. You’re single, and you don’t have kids, a car payment, or a mortgage to worry about. You can take risks that I can’t take.” 

Let me tell it to you straight: I think you’re lying to yourself. 

I still have my fair share of challenges—financial and otherwise—to work through. But honestly, what’s the point in being stuck there? Nothing good comes from telling yourself repeatedly about all of the things you can’t do. That’s a made up idea in your head. Plenty of people have found a way to thrive in various different areas of their lives even with kids, a spouse, a car payment, a mortgage, a lack of education, and a low-paying job. Trust me, you can find numerous people out there who worked through a more dire set of circumstances to accomplish huge, huge things. If they can do it, there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t do it. 

We’ll do whatever we can to find an excuse, because that’s the easier thing to do. It takes a ton of hard work and reflection to decide what your goals are in the first place. We all want quick fixes. But here’s what happens: we rush to set a goal that doesn’t really matter to us, then scramble to try somehow to make it happen, and then we end up upset and demoralized when it doesn’t work out. 

Let me give you an example: dieting.

A lot of people diet. Some lose weight, most gain it back. Why does this happen? Obviously, it’s not for lack of information and diet plans, and psychological techniques out there. And it’s certainly not because of your circumstances. There are really wealthy people who want to get healthy and can afford a private chef, personal trainer, at-home gym, etc. And yet, that’s still not enough. And then there are others who have no resources at all and still bust their butts, get up every morning to run outside, and buy cheap produce and canned veggies. They make it work. 

If you notice, the people who lose weight and keep it off…there’s something different about them. And it’s that they are deeply connected to why they want to get healthy. If your sole motivation for getting healthy is losing weight so you can look good because you think that’s what it’s going to take to get people to fall in love with you, respect you at work, etc., you’re honestly probably going to fail. You’re going to fail because that “purpose” isn’t driven by your core internal desire for change; it’s driven by (1) doing something because that’s what friends, family, society expects, and (2) by a false belief about your self-worth. Your self-worth doesn’t come from your weight, and if you keep thinking that as you attempt to lose weight, even if you do, you’ll just be a thinner version of yourself left with nothing but the real problem that was lurking beneath your weight-gain: irrational and totally made-up self-esteem struggles. 

If, however, you decide you want to lose weight because you are in love with the feeling you get from going on a long run (no matter how hard it is in the middle of one), or you want to live a long and healthy life for your spouse and children, or you’ve learned that eating animal products and heavily processed food, no matter how delicious, is really bad for you and makes you feel nasty and you’re sick and tired of it (literally)…now we’re talking a totally different ballgame. 

Because now, you’re deeply connected to your reason for wanting to lose weight. When you have that connectedness, you elevate yourself above the normal stopping points for people (i.e. having unhealthy food in the house, being too tired to work out in the morning, not having a gym membership, etc.)

If you’re really connected, you’ll find a way.

You’ve literally got everything you need in that head and heart of yours to make your goals work.

So here’s the exercise I want to ask you to do today:

First, find a pocket of silence. Take one day this weekend to completely disconnect and just allow yourself the breathing room to think and reflect. 

Next, answer the question, “What do I feel like I was put on this planet to do?” Just freestyle write. Don’t worry about it making sense or being realistic. Just write everything down that comes to mind. What sorts of things have you always been drawn to? What are your most favorite activities? If you could do anything—no limitations—what would it be? What are your gifts? Strengths? Skills? What do you do better than everyone else you know? Write down absolutely everything that comes to mind. 

Finally, pretend this year was your last year. What one big thing would you want to accomplish? Just choose one thing. What’s the biggest thing you’d want to accomplish in the next year of your life? In 12 months, what would bring you utter joy to say you’d done? What would have made it a year worth living?

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about how to chase after that one big, amazing goal of yours. 

Chicago is the Best City Ever. And I’m So Damn Lucky to Be Here.

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It’s my one-year anniversary of being a Chicagoan!

Exactly one year ago, I packed a few bags, booked a one-way ticket, and moved to my favorite city ever. 

I wrote an article early last year that explains why I finally made the leap and moved

Before I picked up and left, most of the people I knew back home asked me what I was running away from. The answer is that I wasn’t running away from something—I was running passionately toward something. After spending some time in Chicago back in 2011, I just….knew. I knew without a doubt in my mind that I needed to be here. 

Nothing crazy happened to spur this major life change. I didn’t move for a job, a guy, a group of friends, or my family. I moved because I deeply sensed in my heart and in my gut that this was where I was supposed to be.

There have been several major pivot points in my life - the decisions that made the greatest difference. They include: taking up tennis at the age of 4, choosing my college, living in Fiji, pursuing my passion for media and journalism, backpacking alone through Europe for an entire summer, building a school in Laos, and moving to Chicago. 

As I look at that list, it strikes me that as different as each of those pivots are, they’re all bound together by one commonality. And it’s that, as someone who can otherwise be indecisive and appreciates a ton of information before making many of my decisions, I was unshakably and almost instantly sure about every single one of these. I didn’t waver or second-guess myself when it came to deciding whether to take these pivots in my life. I knew at some core and unexplainable level that these were simply things I needed to do. There was no option but to pursue those bold dreams and moves. 

This year has been one of immense learning, faith, love, heartbreak, humility, and gratitude. I’ve learned invaluable lessons that will stick with me for the rest of my life. I fell passionately in love with my work. I found some truly incredible friends that I am so thankful for, every single day. All of the events, experiences, circumstances, friendships, and relationships I’ve had this past year are now these beautiful, distinct dots in my life. 

I do not yet know how all of the dots that have unraveled and are unraveling will ultimately connect. All I know, given the life I’ve led thus far, is that they will. And so, I push on every day - working, learning, stumbling, bouncing back up again, and soaking up every moment of this time in my life. 

Here’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned to date: the hardest- and yet most important- thing to find in life is a sense of purpose. Developing and understanding your passions and strengths, and exploring what you were put on this earth to do? That’s some of the most important work you can take on. It comes through a great deal of trial and error, pain and joy, disappointment and heartache. 

Life is inevitably full of moments, relationships, and decisions that evoke a sense of concern, uncertainty, and fear. But it’s also full of opportunities to pursue critical pivot points that will beautifully shake up your life. And when those opportunities do present themselves, if you remain completely vulnerable and open to the magnificent possibilities of your life, you will have complete peace and clarity about what you must do. 

You will just know. 

We All Push People Away Out of Fear of Getting Hurt. And It’s Time to Stop.

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Every time I travel, I usually meet incredible new people. They walk into my life, and if I have the opportunity to get to know them for a little while, I find that they almost always make my heart warm, my brain light up. 

The thought that saddens me most is knowing, once I leave that new place, that there’s a chance I may never see those people again. It’s this bittersweet feeling in the pit of my soul—that the people whose lives intersected with and had an impact on mine, however briefly, are people I may never see again. 

But that thought leads me to one of the big decisions we all have to make in life:

Are we going to insulate ourselves from getting close to others because we’re afraid of losing them? Or are we going to be vulnerable and go out into the world with an open mind and an open heart, ready to embrace others? 

After careful observation, I’m convinced that most of us, most of the time, choose the former option—even if we do so in very discrete ways.

Sometimes, this looks like us sticking to the group of friends we know and not making an effort to get to know other people around us. Other times, it looks like not opening up about who we are when we do finally have a chance to interact with someone new. And every now and again, it’s blatant—us pushing people away because they’ve gotten too close. We can’t control others, and because we care for them, they have the ability to hurt us. So, we do the one thing we can control: we dismiss them or distance ourselves from them. Sometimes, we’ll even sabotage situations with our own behavior so that they really stay away. 

Now, I’m just going to go ahead and say it so you have confirmation of the truth that’s already in your head:

It’s a jackass move to push people out of your life out of fear. Actually, it’s a jackass move to do just about anything out of a place of fear. 

It’s time to think about our relationships with other people differently. Stop constantly worrying about when and how they will hurt you. Stop sabotaging your ability to foster incredible, meaningful relationships with others. If you want a life full of awesome relationships, put your heart on the line first. Be the example. Let others know they can trust you, because they’re struggling with the same fears, too. We all are. 

If you want to go meet someone new at a party, go. If you want to reconnect with someone you used to be close to, do it. If you have the urge to mend a severed relationship, there’s no better time than right now. 

Because I promise you, if you keep pushing everyone away to avoid getting hurt, you will massively regret it later on in your life. 

I can’t stand it when people say, particularly about romantic relationships, “I don’t need someone else to be complete.” 

Screw that. 

I don’t know about you, but my life is definitely more complete because of the people who’ve entered it. It’s true that we can’t expect others to give us our happiness. Rather, we have to consistently generate personal joy so that we can give our best to others. But the idea that we don’t need other people to be more complete? It’s bullshit. 

So if we can agree that relationships really matter, the choice becomes obvious:

Let go of the fear and just love others as big as you can. Love yourself enough to let others in. Embrace everyone you meet. Look for the lessons in every relationship, and also know when a lesson has been learned and it’s time to let someone go.

Life is made meaningful based on the people we meet, the relationships we nurture, and the cool stuff and experiences we create with those people. 

When you invite people into your life, that’s when you’ll see its meaning and purpose expand exponentially. 

If You’re Waiting for a Sign to Pursue What You Love, This is It

After interviewing about 50 startups and tech companies at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Vegas this week, several themes became apparent. 

One. Building and maintaining a company is really hard. If you’re starting something and you think you’re the only entrepreneur who’s struggling, you’re seriously wrong. I didn’t hear a single founder say, “Starting a company was easier than I thought.” You should be prepared for a long and challenging journey, but know you’re not alone. 

Two. Pitch better. About half of the people I interviewed confused me with their product/company pitches. It’s challenging to tell a good story about your brand in a way that not only helps others grasp the concept of what you’re working on, but also genuinely resonates with them. Sharpen your story. Ask people for feedback. Modify until it’s nearly perfect. Test it on others—pay attention to how different pitches land with different people differently. It makes all the difference down the road. 

Three. Perhaps one of the best lessons I learned is that there are people in the world who are actively working on some of the craziest stuff we can imagine. If you’ve thought about a grand new idea, someone is probably already working on it, or is damn close to making a decision to work on it. But that’s the thing: most people never do—at least not long enough to build something meaningful and long-lasting. Why? Because creating something takes a ton of energy and commitment. And that’s exactly why you should do whatever it is that lives at the intersection of passion and talent for you—because that’s the thing you’ll have the energy and commitment for. 

There are so many people out there building incredible things. As I walked around the trade room floors, I stumbled upon thousands of different iPhone cases, Hundreds of tablet devices, and a section dedicated just to fitness gadgets. Will all of these companies succeed? Almost certainly not. But I do have a sense of the factors that define which ones will and which ones won’t: passion, purpose, and product.

  • Passion: How much you believe in what you’re doing
  • Purpose: Having a clear sense of why you do what you do, and who you’re doing it for, and why it matters to them. 
  • Product: Your product (or service) is rockstar levels of awesome. You can have all the passion and purpose in the world, but if you’re not selling something fantastic, you’re screwed.

So if you’re thinking about starting something—whether a project, event, non-profit, or for-profit company—start now. Don’t sit there and think about it. Don’t bother feeling bad for yourself. Stop coming up with excuses. None of that is getting you anywhere. 

Don’t wait for the perfect time, because there will never be a “perfect time” to put yourself on the line and do something high risk. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect. Don’t worry if some people don’t like it.

Just figure out your passion, purpose, and product– and then go out and create.

If you’ve been waiting for a sign, this is it.

Start now—and don’t stop until you’re finished creating what you want the world to have.