Two years ago, I wrote about choosing to be miserable in the The Art of Misery. It is amazing how many people in the world qualify for the Certificate of Misery and have mastered this art. For some strange reason, it is easier to master misery than happiness. I do not know exactly why that is, but for most people, the definition of happiness is so hard to achieve they can never be happy. Even when they have a happy moment, it does not last long enough to get them to the next happy moment.
Misery is exactly the opposite – every little event can create misery in an instant. One word another person says or one thing not going according to expectations can easily last right until the next misfortune or unpleasantness. This is a never-ending cycle that requires courage and commitment to change.
Misery and happiness are in constant battle. The winner is the one controlling your life. Essentially, if you are miserable (dissatisfied, unhappy) about 70% of your life, you have only 30% left for happiness.
In The Art of Misery, I gave 10 lessons in misery with clear instructions on how to pass each test and gradually move on to the next level. Although I wrote that only those who completed the program would be entitled to the certificate, I have discovered it is enough for people to master some of the lessons to declare themselves eligible.
Just a quick reminder of the first 10 lesson in The Art of Misery (Level 1):
- Long for the past
- Use the past as the best excuse for all problems
- Be negative
- Please others
- Have a huge “one day” file
- Resist change
- Be jealous
- Wish for luck
- Take your time
- Blame others
In the last two years, I have had many requests to extend the misery course and I believe the time has finally come. After two years of practicing and holding your misery certificate, you are ready for the next level. Today, in the second part of the Misery Mastery “training program”, I will improve, refine and help you upgrade your skills. I will add 10 more things you can do if being just miserable is not enough and you really, really want to be extremely miserable.
Advanced Misery Mastery
Welcome to Be Miserable in LIFE’s Misery Mastery course. When you have successfully qualified through just another 10 steps, you will be able to upgrade the very popular, highly sought-after and totally depressing title of Advanced Misery Master.
More than before, presenting your title will immediately grant you access to unlimited compassion and sympathy from everyone around you, as well as their complete admiration for your achievement. The advanced title will give you the freedom to complain, be angry, make endless excuses for things not happening in our life, blame others and feel sorry for yourself.
Good luck (according to Lesson 8, which you have mastered, luck is all you need)!
1. Be Self Centered
Masters of misery think the whole world revolves around them. They think everyone thinks about them all the time and everything other people do is related to them somehow. They seek appreciation and consideration from others and find it totally acceptable that people will do things against their own best interest as long as it fits their needs.
Although we are very important, understanding that everyone does the best he or she can is necessary to living a happy life. Feeling you are the center of the universe will conflict with others thinking they are the center, because we can’t all be the center of the universe, now can we?
If you continually think of yourself and what others should do, say or be to make it easy for you to maintain this position, you have qualified through Step 1 of your Advanced Misery Mastery.
2. Get No Sleep
Advanced masters of misery do not find any correlation between their thinking, success or happiness and their sleep. They steal time from themselves and sleep just a little, especially when they need to concentrate the next day on work or study. They are so unaware of the value of a good night’s sleep they ignore their own contribution to making their sleep difficult and proudly brag about going to sleep 4 hours at night after spending time watching TV, playing computer games or just knocking themselves out with alcohol.
Although fun is essential, it is important to understand that the natural cycle is 24 hours in each day, of which 8 hours should be dedicated to rest. To remain calm, to maintain a clear mind, to be able to concentrate and to function properly, we need to rest.
If you steal time for yourself and do not rest for about 8 hours a day and that keeps you angry, agitated or just unable to function, well done! You have passed Step 2 of your Advanced Misery Mastery.
3. Have No Goals
Miserable people do not have goals. In fact, 90% of people do not have goals, which makes you the majority and can help you feel you part of a nice big herd. People with no goals do not achieve things nor are they willing to make an effort to reach any goals.
By contract, successful people all have goals. A research done on financial success has found that millionaires have goals they revisit twice a day while multimillionaires have goals they revisit three times a day.
If you are aimlessly cruising through life with no direction, afraid to want things in case you may not get them, you are well on your way to great misery. If you see no value in goal setting, you have just completed Step 3 of your Advanced Misery Mastery. Well done! Keep up the good work!
4. Believe in “My Way or the Highway”
The “my way of the highway” mentality is a sure bet if you want to be miserable. People with this attitude have a clear definition of what is right and what is wrong and they make sure everyone knows that. They are not accepting towards others’ idea, thoughts, feelings and attitudes and are frustrated most of the time that people do not understand what is right and what is wrong. This frustration is a good way to be miserable and the more, the better.
“My way or the highway” leads to many misunderstandings and conflicts. People with this attitude are very frustrated and find it hard to understand that other people have different value systems. Every time they meet someone who does not think, feel, believe or do exactly what they think should be done, they have a conflict and develop hard feelings towards that person. This attitude lacks essential social skills, which is why it will make you very isolated and, well, even more miserable.
If you find out you have a clear view of what is right and wrong, if you tell others about it many times, if you do not have enough friends and you feel isolated, if you often use the phrases “you should” and “you have to”, if you are frustrated a lot, excellent! This will feed your feeling miserable and make sure you will stay that way for a long time. You have just completed Step 4 of your Advanced Misery Mastery.
5. Be a Control Freak
One of the easiest ways to be miserable is by being a control freak. Miserable people want to control their world. They find strength in controlling their world and others and are afraid of change (which you have completed in Step 6 of Level 1). Control freaks tell everyone else what they need to do and think in order to feel secure in their life. They stick to routines and cannot risk something or somebody getting out of control. This is why they do not progress and get into lots of conflicts with others who do not like to be controlled and be miserable like them.
Controlling life is a desire we all have. It is almost like playing God and trying to predict what will happen. Sure, it can give us lots of stability, but it is important to control what we can, let go of what we cannot and distinguish between them to spread our energy well.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the thing I can
and the wisdom to know the difference
– Reinhold Niebuhr
If you find yourself stressing over things that are beyond your ability to control and you keep grinding your mind with “If only…” and do not accept that there is something amazing about the surprises in life, then you are really progressing. You have just passed Step 5 of your Advanced Misery Mastery.
Miserable people love to gossip about others. They want to know what happens with other people and really like the juicy parts where other people make mistakes, fail and feel bad. In every social gathering, they constantly ask about others and like to pass this information on (many times with creative additions of their own that will make it more interesting for others to listen and preferably pass it on to others). They are the center of the information and like to say things about others that show them in a bad light. Unlike the “Be Jealous” lesson (#7 in Misery Mastery Level 1), the gossipers take it one step forward and declare war on the people they envy.
Gossiping is a result of low self esteem. It is usually a sign that the person who gossips thinks that in order to feel better, he or she needs others to look worse. Their self image is not strong enough and they believe there is an imaginary war on being good, successful and happy and if someone else has more of it, they have less.
If you find yourself asking about others in a tone that wants to hear the bad, embarrassing things that happen to them, if you talk about people behind their back and present them in a bad light, if you envy others and think they must have some “dark spot” in their life to ease your jealousy, you have just completed Lesson 6 of your Advanced Misery Mastery.
7. Do Not Forgive
For miserable people, forgiving is the skill of the enemy – the happy people. Miserable people do not like to let go of grudges and can talk about things people did years ago as an excuse to be angry at them all over again. They highlight other people’s mistakes and like playing the guilt trip on other.
If you want to master this misery skill, go over all the wrongs that have been done to you in your life. Make sure you believe they were done on purpose in order to hurt you and make sure the offenders will never get away from being blamed for what they have done. You can practice carving them to pieces in your mind so they will never disappear until the day you die.
Forgiving is the key that releases all the anger and fear in our life. Practicing forgiveness is an art in itself. When we forgive others, we set them free and set ourselves free from carrying them and their actions with us.
If you have a huge list of people that you have met in life that you hold a grudge against, make sure to add more people into that list. You can take everything they have done personally and believe they have done it against you and that it was so awful it was unforgivable. If you have lots and lots of unforgivable things done against you, you are winning your way up the scale of your Advanced Misery Mastery.
8. Be a Perfectionist
Perfectionists are people who have the exact character trait that helps them maintain their miserable title. Like the control freaks, their perfectionism is a way to control their world, but unlike the control freaks, they need to control everything 100%. They have high expectations from themselves and others and if things do not happen exactly the way they expected, they are very unhappy and miserable. They are not forgiving towards themselves and others and have rules that never compromise on anything. They have to be the best and do not tolerate mistakes. Again, much like people with the “my way or the highway” attitude, frustration is their fuel and they have lots of it to keep them going until the day they die.
Perfectionism is a mindset that cannot live together with happiness. The notion of being perfect and expecting 100% from self and others makes it hard to be satisfied, which is one important lesson in the art of happiness. Again, like the control freaks and the “highway” attitude, their perfectionism gets them into lots of relationship conflicts at work, at home and with their social circle. People find it hard to be around them and it makes them isolated.
If you find yourself frustrated with things you have done and think that 80% success is no success at all, if you ask your kids “Why did you only get 98% on your exam?” or focus only on faults, if you think that people who do not do things 100% are lazy, unworthy and lower than you, it means you can easily pass the perfectionist exam of your Advanced Misery Mastery.
Catastrophizers are fortune tellers. They take everything and look for possible consequences. The better they are, the more horrible, chaotic and disastrous consequences they find. Their lack of perspective is highly developed and they can take a small thing and make a very big fuss over it. They always foresee negative outcomes and feel everything is a matter of life and death. Murphy’s law is their bible and they believe that if anything can go wrong, it will. They see themselves as prophets of the kind that warns people about sickness, failures and accidents and they tell everyone what is about to go wrong with what they do.
Catastrophizing is the source of anxiety. People take themselves in their mind to a very negative potential future and live their life in constant fear. Catastrophizing feeds their low self esteem because it supports the belief they are helpless. It also kills any motivation they may have.
If you are able to predict a negative future, if you tell others what bad is going to happen to them, if you take every little thing and make a big deal out of it (like taking one of your kids’ C in the report card and making life hell for them in fear they might grow up to be losers), this is solid proof you lack perspective and are entitled to pass the 9th step of your Advanced Misery Mastery.
Worriers are real heroes. Their talent is the inability to predict the future while continually thinking about it. They are skillful in the “Yes, but what if…” game and can play it for a long time (most of the time until circumstances make the choice for them). They can worry about every tiny thing and if there is nothing on their mind, they are worried about that too.
In our body, the fight or flight response is supposed to work as a defense mechanism. In a dangerous situation, the body produces chemicals to make us alert and quick on our feet. Worrying triggers this mechanism and worrying for a long time exhausts the body and makes the warrior tired and edgy. Worrying is a state of alertness that the body cannot handle for long. If you want to understand this fully, try not to sleep for two days and notice how your performance drops. Worrying for long enough can cause depression.
If you just do not know what will happen and you want to know it so badly it makes you try in your mind endless options, if you can keep yourself worried about insignificant things, which you will not remember in a year, a month or even tomorrow, if you are worried you do not have anything to worry about, you are doing great and you have just completed the final part of your Advanced Misery Mastery.
Congratulations! You are officially an Advanced Misery Master.
Please click the certificate above, print it and use it whenever you need. Be aware, you can use it for 30 minutes at a time, after which it will self-destruct and you will need to get on with your life (or find something else to be miserable about).
Since you are now at the advanced level, print two copies of the certificate. You may hand out one copy to others to encourage their misery and keep one for yourself. Remember, misery loves company.
Be miserable, if it makes you happy
– Andrew Matthews