The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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I am aimless and have always waited for others to tell me what I should do.

(this is raw unedited text, computer transcribed directly from the audio, without voice inflection, pauses etc. Sometimes this results in the text implying the opposite of the intended meaning.)

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The Selfish Path to Romance - download chapter one for free at Dr or at

Here's a question I received from Sharon. Hi, Dr. Kenner. I feel like I'm a robot run by a program. Since I was very young, I would ask, What do I do? And I'd be very bored and aimless, when someone wouldn't give me the proper response. Now, I'm 16 years old. How do I break free of the cycle of waiting for people to tell me what to do? How do I motivate myself to do things? How do I enjoy my life, not just when my environment happens to be fun, but at any point, I want to learn to adapt to my environment to me rather than the other way around. I barely motivated myself enough to write this email. I'm not depressed as in sad or angry by the way that would probably be better than this fit than this.

This feeling of aimlessness Sharon, and I agree with you. If you were depressed or angry, at least you've got some motivation, but when you try to deaden all your emotions, and you wait for life to happen, its aim you get that feeling of aimlessness purposelessness. And that's the exact opposite of what you want in life if you wanted to torture yourself, or if anybody wanted to torture themselves what they could do is become aimless, not set any goals not said not have any values in life, not allow yourself to form values and when I mean values, I mean, hobbies, whether it's kayaking, or hiking or biking or dancing or reading, you know, joining a book club or bowling, hobbies I mean, I mean other values such as romantic values or values such as a career or a job that you enjoy, or value such as good friendships or good good friendships even within families, maybe you're very close to one sister or brother. And you want to develop those friendships and pursue those those very rich relationships or activities you enjoy or goals you set at work or or to find that romantic partner. So aimlessness is a terrible self punishment, Sharon. What is so good though is you were motivated to identify it not just to yourself, but to reach out for help. So there's a part of you that really wants to fight for your own happiness. You want a more interesting life, it's boring being aimless.

So how do you learn to own your own life? You start by . . .

Hey, I gotta interrupt this because we've got to pay some bills. 30 seconds. That's it. A very quick break and then Ellen will be back.

Romance. Oh, I wish guys knew more about what we want from a relationship. Boy, I wish I knew more about what I want. Where's that ad I saw? Here it is The Selfish Path to Romance - a serious romance guidebook. Download chapter one for free at and buy it at Hmm, The Selfish Path to Romance. That IS interesting.

So how do you learn to own your own life? You start by understanding yourself. At least give yourself some clarity. Why have I been aimless? Well, it could be what it could be that I once tried to pursue a really important goal. And I failed as a young kid, I couldn't make the didn't make the team and I just said, I'm not going to do that anymore. I don't want to ever feel that pain. Or it could be I had one of those. What are they call them hovercraft parents, an overbearing parent who always made your important decisions and when you try to override their choices, but Mom, I don't want to eat this. No, Mom, I don't like this movie. No, Mom, I do not like playing the piano, please don't force me. They forced you. And you just threw in the towel because your man they're bigger than you. They're, they're in charge of your food and you didn't know how to fight the battle with them. And you just gave up on pursuing your own values. Another reason that people sometimes give up on themselves is they see a sibling excelling in what they think is everything. But they conclude that that you know my sister, my brother's a success in life and I'm inadequate, I'm less so so I even try so it could be in a sibling context that people give up on themselves. Or sometimes people are told that you're only good Sharon, if you live for others if you cater to others and that it's Bad to focus on yourself to set those personal goals that I was just talking about.

If that's the case, you want to learn that this is your life, and that it is proper. And it is moral to pursue your happiness to pursue your goals rationally, of course, you're not going to take advantage of other people. But you want to grasp that point, and then give yourself permission to practice doing so like you did in writing the emails. So having the proper ideas matters so much to your own motivation. And I'm gonna go for a few examples, Sharon, if you think this is my life, and even if I failed in some endeavor in the past, that's no reason to give up on myself. I'm going to learn from my setbacks and I'm going to set new goals for myself that would make you less aimless. Or if your mother was overbearing, or your father, you could say, you know, my mother made all my big choices in the past, but I want to design my own life, not in rebellion to her, but based on choosing values that will truly bring me longer range happiness now that that's a huge accomplishment. Or if it was a siblings issue, you could say even though my sister and brother excel in many things, that doesn't mean that I can't have a good life, too. What are my top interests? What would I like my future to be like? I you want to be I know, I went back to school. When I was in my 20s, after I had read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, that I discovered the motivation to pursue my dreams. So I wish the same for you. And you can also read my book The Selfish path to romance that I wrote with Dr. Ed Locke. I'm Dr. Ellen Kenner.

And here's a little more from Dr. Kenner . . .

Movie excerpt:

I haven't been sleeping. I'm unclear in my head, or felt like myself. Sick, nauseous, sleepy. Her everything looks distorted, and everything inside just kind of aches and you can barely find the will to complain.

And that's Jack Nicholson from as good as it gets. And have you had that feeling day after day you wake up, you just feel depressed. down in the dumps, you just feel like, the whole world feels like a black cloud, and you don't know how to get out of that muck. And whatever. wherever you turn, it seems like you've got stress, you've got problems in your life, you've got work to get done. You've got projects that have been unfinished forever. Your kids are yelling at you your marital relationships, not good and works not good. What do you do? Do you just throw in the towel and remain depressed? Or do you figure a way to start to gently put your life back together and that's where it starts. It starts with yourself, not beating up on yourself. But taking just taking stock of what needs to be done.

Some people call it a brain dump. You take a piece of paper and you take everything that's on your mind and you dump it out on paper, you write it down, write, write, write, make lists, if you prefer to write it in lists, so you can actually write it out longhand. Now you do actually writing it out, it's a little better than doing it on a computer because it slows your mind down your hands are you're you're getting different tactile sensations with your hands, you're thinking of it, you're hearing the thoughts in your head. So you're just giving a little more thought to what's going on in your life. And then you can prioritize, you might circle the thing that's most important to get done. It might be working on your relationship, it might be maybe cleaning one closet or cleaning one area in your house. It may be doing something at work getting a project done for work, but you can't do it all at once. So you want to learn how to prioritize and be good with a method of prioritizing meaning don't beat yourself up. You're doing the most important project and you're saying yes, but I should also be doing these, which makes you unable to focus that isn't fair to yourself. So you want to learn how to basically think yourself out of a depression. Of course therapy can help tremendously because it teaches skills.

For more Dr. Kenner podcasts go to And please listen to this ad . . .

Here's an excerpt from The Selfish Path to Romance the serious romance guidebook by clinical psychologist Dr. Ellen Kenner and co author Dr. Edwin Locke, who is world famous for his theories on goal setting . . .

To create and maintain a positive mood within your romantic partnership, you must take control over your own moods. Since emotions are caused by thoughts you can help control your moods by focusing on the good parts of your life and the positive aspects of your partner or spouse. How do you do this? train your mind to focus on genuinely positive daily events? Contrast this with making exhaustive lists of the upsetting things that happened to you each day, as many chronic warriors do the fall warmer mindset will create a positive climate in the relationship but the latter will not. We don't mean to ignore negatives on the contrary, take every action possible to resolve problems and undermine your happiness. If your partner avoids you because you're in a bad mood every night after work, think about how you can improve your mood either alone or together.
You can download chapter one for free by going to, and you can buy The Selfish Path to Romance at

You can download chapter one for free by going to, and you can buy The Selfish Path to Romance at