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For over a decade, David Tian, Ph.D. — a uniquely qualified therapist, life coach, and former university professor — has coached tens of thousands of people from over 87 countries to achieve happiness and success in their relationships, dating, psychology, and lifestyle.
Dr. Tian has been featured in international media, as well as co-hosting a radio show on national radio and a weekly dating advice column in a national newspaper in Singapore.
The show, “Man Up: Masculinity for the Intelligent Man” (https://www.davidtianphd.com/blog/), is David’s way of helping as many people as possible enjoy empowering and fulfilling lives, while contributing to the global understanding of masculinity in modern times. In the show, he takes your questions posed in the Man Up private Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/manupcommunity/) and answers based on his experience coaching tens of thousands of students around the world for over a decade.
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The Secret To Getting What You Want While Being Happy
David Tian Ph.D. reveals why people don’t allow themselves to feel happy until they have reached their goal.
David Tian Ph.D. shares what happens when you become needy towards the outcome.
In this Man Up episode, David Tian Ph.D. tells us why we need to enjoy the process in order to be happy.
Boom! Stop. I’m David Tian, PhD. And in this video, I talk about the secret to getting what you want while being happy. Welcome to Man Up Episode 155.
Masculinity for the intelligent man. I’m David Tian, PhD, and this is Man Up!
Hi! I’m David Tian, PhD. And for over the past ten years, I’ve been helping hundreds of thousands of people in over 87 countries attain success, happiness and fulfillment in life and love, and welcome to Man Up Episode 155, I believe. Let me just double check on that – 155. And I’m here in Bangkok, let me show you the view and see. Hopefully the camera will adjust. Yeah, and there it is. And it was raining earlier, and this is a view from a part of Bangkok I’m not usually in. Normally, I’m in the CBD – and there’s a really cool pool. This is part of the luxury collection.
And this is the part of Bangkok that most tourists – most Western tourists will see more of, the Sukhumvit Area. So I’m out here and just recovering from a pretty intense few days of birthday celebrations. Let me see if I can refocus this mid-video. Okay, there we go. And drinking and eating a lot, so I’m recovering, getting back on the diet.
So, answering a question from the private Facebook group of Man Up. And this is the secret to getting… Well, I’ve retitled it, is the secret to getting what you want while being happy. But it was originally in the context of some live shows I did within the Man Up group as part of our launch of a new advanced program called Awakenings. And in the live shows, I talked about narcissistic personality disorder. I talked about being outcome-dependent.
And one of the questions that came out of that was – if I want to achieve and get success in life, how can I do that without depending on the outcome? Without, in other words really — so that my happiness is dependent on whether I get the goal? So, part of the thing about happiness is that it’s often elusive. Most people that I work with have taken on either a pleasing, or achieving, or both – pleaser/achiever, coping strategies when they were very young, and how to deal with pleasing their parents and their first trauma.
If this doesn’t make any sense to you, go watch the live shows in the Facebook group. I’ve already conducted those there and I’ve gone into detail there. So, one of the questions there is, “If I’m the achiever, if I need to achieve in order to feel worthy, in order to have confidence, I need to go out and get the As in school or get that certain award. I won’t be happy with myself unless I can reach that milestone of whatever it is, whether it’s a money goal, a fitness goal – whatever it is.
A lot of people don’t allow themselves to feel happy, to feel fulfilled until they reach that goal. And often those goals, if they’re really super achievers, are very ambitious goals. And sometimes those goals may not be achieved for a decade or more. So for instance, if you’re not going to be happy or give yourself permission to be happy until you have a billion-dollar company, then you’re going to be waiting a very long time to be happy.
And one of the markers of this is – even if you’re an achiever and you manage to achieve that, and many of my friends and myself throughout our college years, through school, all the way through college and then into graduate school, and then after that and getting into McKinsey or the banks, or whatever it was your goal that made you feel like you made it; whatever those goals were, notice that once you achieve them, they weren’t that big of a deal anymore. It was just sort of like, “Oh wow, this is it?”
Or even when you get close to it, that penultimate step when you knew already that it was going to be yours and you just had to fill out some paperwork in, or accept the job offer or whatever, then you celebrate for one day but then the next morning arises and you’re like, “Oh wow, I just sacrificed whatever number of years it was, the countless hours of…” Instead of having fun like your friends were, you decided you were going to sacrifice all that and stay home and study all the time, and you’re going to sacrifice whatever it is going to take in order to get that goal and achievement, and you become needy towards it.
But you work, you work, you work, you work, you work your way through it and you get it, and it’s still not satisfying. It’s still an empty feeling. This is common in many areas of life. Hopefully for those who have succeeded and achieved, you know what I’m talking about.
Now, this applies just as strongly and just as well when it comes to men trying to attract women. So, one of the common ideas, and one that over five years ago I was also… What was it, like in the Desire System, this was like seven years ago I was teaching that; the idea of ‘achieve your way to self-esteem.’ And that is one part, one aspect of how you can strengthen your self-esteem, is to become competent and to trust in your ability to overcome obstacles and so on.
But if you take that too far and that becomes the only way you achieve self-esteem, in other words that you don’t allow yourself to feel happy until you achieve the goal… And if the goal happens to be becoming sexy enough or whatever, sexually attractive enough to attract those physically attractive women naturally, you don’t feel good about yourself until they like you, until you get to the point where either you get enough money, or the body, or the social skills in order to attract that, only then will you feel good about yourself.
And most guys don’t even achieve that. But even if they do, it becomes a trap and their self-esteem is at the mercy of things outside their control. So, that was part of what I covered in the live shows. The question then is, “Okay David, I get it. I don’t want my self-esteem to be at the mercy of achieving external goals.” And especially if when the external goals depend on other people’s reactions to you, or approval, or validation, or the professor gives you an A or something, or you don’t feel good about yourself.
Or even then, even if your happiness is just one of those things where, “I’m going to keep going with the deadlift until I reach a certain amount.” That is more or less within your control. You just got to stick with it. But if it’s a very ambitious goal, you’re not going to feel good and happy, you’re not letting yourself, giving yourself permission to feel happy until you’ve attained that. And that’s a miserable existence up to the point where you attain that. So, I grew up as an achiever. Most of my friends are achievers.
All my relatives that I know of, they’ve all achieved a lot and they’re all achievers. And one of the ways that we drive ourselves – and a very common thing in Asian families, going back to possibly Confucian influence is the strict disciplinarian household where through rewards and punishments, they only give you the reward when you’ve gotten the grades or whatever external accolade that they want you to have.
And this is a trap, and it gets you there but you’re going to be miserable until you get it. And even when you get it, you’ll still find it empty. I mean, when it comes to achieving to attract women, like achieve your way into the bedroom or whatever – even that is going to be empty, and then it will become addictive because you’ll need more of it, more of it, more of it. And at any moment, they can just withdraw attention/approval and then you’ll have to go and scramble to go and find it.
So, I go into a lot more detail on this in the live shows. The question then is, “Okay, I get that. Now, if I remove the motivation to go and get that goal, then won’t I become lazy?” When I become like, “Oh okay, I’m having fun all the time. I’m not going to push myself to go and study. I’m not going to push myself to achieve. If I’m having a good time all the time, then how would I ever stick with it to get that goal?
So, this is what I want to address. I came up with this great analogy. I read it in this success coaching book. I can’t remember where I found it now because it was quite a while ago, and it was a story of a high-level performance coach. And he was saying it was a million dollars a day to get this coach. And he was coaching. I think it was like the Olympic team or a very high-level team, and I think it was for the US but I’m not sure.
Anyway, so they brought this coach in to coach this – I think it was hurdling. It was some kind of track-and-field thing, and they had this guy who’s been training for quite a long time, but he kept hitting this wall, this ceiling, on his time, how fast he could run, whatever it was. I think maybe it was 110 meter hurdles, he can only make it – you couldn’t break the 12 second mark or whatever it was, and they brought in this million-dollar a day coach.
And the million-dollar a day coach came and saw this hurdler, and he’s like, “Okay, run for me. I want to see.” So, the hurdler ran, and then he gets close to the 12 second mark but he didn’t break it. And he looks at the time, and he crosses the finish line, he’s like, “Fuck!” And he gets really mad at himself. This is the very common thing among achievers. They’re very hard on themselves because their parents were hard on themselves, and they use the stick to motivate them going forward.
So, he’s really hard on himself and he’s like, “Fuck man, I can’t do it, I can’t do it.” And the coach says, “Okay, I see what you’re doing now. Okay, now go walk back and run again.” And the hurdler is like, “Whoa wait, we usually take five-minute rest between sprints.” And the coach said, “Yeah, I know, but just take your time walking back and then just do it again. Trust me.”
And then he said this, “Now this time, when you cross the finish line, celebrate like you’ve won the gold medal, like you’ve already gotten the goal that you want. What’s that going to look like? What would you do with your face, your voice, your body? How would you celebrate? What would you look like? Just go ahead and humor me and pretend.” And he’s like, “No way, this is stupid.” He’s like, “Humor me. I’m only here for a day trial, so just try it out.” And the hurdler was like, “Okay.” I guess I’d go like, woo-hoo! And he’s like, “Okay, more. Exaggerate that more.”
And so, he’s really getting into it. The coach got his teammates to get into it with him, high-fiving him and clapping – you know, basically celebrating, right? And he’s like, “Yeah, yeah!” And he’s doing his victory lap, he’s like awesome. “So, that’s exactly what I want you to do,” the coach says, “When you cross the finish line. Okay? Now, go walk back to the starting line and run your best.”
Now, what the coach didn’t tell him was that the coach was going to move that finish line back. I think it was like two meters or something. Also, the runner was already quite tired because he just ran. Anyways, so he comes barreling down the finish line, boom, it was the worst time he’d ever posted in the past two years or something like that. He didn’t get the full rest time, plus the finish line had been moved back. So, he looked at the clock as he passes the line, he’s like, “Fuck!”
And then the coach is like, “Hey, hey, celebrate.” He’s like, “Oh okay, yeah. Celebrate!” He’s celebrating, and the teammates are getting into it, high-fiving him, hugging him. He’s doing his victory lap, they gave him the flag, he’s like, “Woo!” And he’s like, “Okay.” And the coach is like, “How are do feel?” He’s like, “Actually, that was kind of fun.”
And then he’s like, “Great, now you’re going to do it again.” “Again? We usually take the rest.” He’s like, “No rest, just walk back, do it again.” And then this time, the coach moves it back even further, another two meters. So, the guy comes running down, doesn’t realize the finish line had been moved, crosses the line, his worst time in his five/ten years. Looks at the time, he’s like, “Fuck, that was horrible.” He’s like, “Okay, woo!” And he’s just celebrating, and everyone’s coming out and high-fiving him, give him the flag.
He does his victory lap, he’s having a great time jumping up and down, it’s like, “Yeah, yeah!” He’s like, “This is awesome!” And he goes to the coach, “Hey, this is a lot of fun. This is what you call coaching.” The coach is like, “Perfect. Now, what you’re going to do is do it again.” And he made him do it again a couple more times. And everytime, he moved that finish line further back until the guy wasn’t even looking at the clock anymore. So he crosses the finish line, already knows he’s going to celebrate, so he just burst into celebration.
They give him the flag, he’s having fun with it, he’s doing his victory dance, you know. And then one more time, I think it was like the fifth time, tells the guy to go back to the starting line. And this time, the coach moves the finish line back to the original position and he tells him, “Just take your time walking back, catch your breath and then just do your best.”
So, the guy comes barreling down, boom, boom, boom, 110 meters, gets through it, doesn’t even look at the clock, just starts celebrating and his teammates come hugging him. And they’re like, “Did you look at the clock, man?” He’s like, “What? What?” And he looks at his clock and he actually had his personal best, and it was under conditions where he didn’t take full rest time.
And he was so shocked, but it didn’t even matter to him at that point because he was already like, “Hey, I’m already having a great time anyway.” Now, this is one of the secrets to success and attainment. There are those who put the locomotive on their shoulders and they just crawl their way through for decades, even. If you went through undergrad and gave up doing all-nighters every semester in subjects that you didn’t really enjoy, weren’t really into, that you couldn’t get in flow in, that you just didn’t enjoy the process and it was all to get this goal at the end…
And then even if you did get that goal, because a lot of people – you can’t actually – it’s very difficult to succeed under those conditions; a lot of stress. But even for the minority who do succeed under those conditions, find it to be an empty victory. And that includes – like when it comes to pick-up artists trying to learn how to get good with women. They’re out in the clubs sacrificing a lot of their health. These guys who actually had very introverted lives, and maybe very introspective lives, reflective lives, then go out three or four nights a week, they’re blasting their livers away.
And then they wake-up late, it affects them at work, and school, and so on. But they’re sacrificing all of the stuff to get girls at the club and all this, and it becomes like clocking in kind of mentality because they’re sacrificing certain joys; maybe the joy of staying at home and playing video games or whatever it was, for the pain of going through all of the awkwardness and all this to get the club girls or something like that.
And even the minority, very small minority, who actually persevere through that process – when they get it, it’s an empty victory and they have to keep getting it. They’re like addicts. They have to keep going back to keep getting that high, because it’s a very temporary high and it goes away very quickly, temporary high.
Whereas those who truly succeed are the ones who already reward themselves in the first place. And they start from a position of – not striving through pain, but a position of appreciation and gratitude for what they already have, and the position that they’re already in. And starting from that position of – inside already celebrating, so that they remove the stress, they remove all the tension and pressure because that’s all mental, and psychological and subjective. And instead, they enjoy the process, they enjoy the journey, they lose themselves in the journey.
And they get that goal. You’re going to end up getting the goal. But even if you don’t, it doesn’t matter, because you already are enjoying it. You’re already having fun. That’s what matters. If you delay your happiness until the ten-year mark, when you finally sell that company, it’s going to be an empty victory. And even if you do make it that far, many people don’t. And even if you do make it that far, it’s going to be an empty victory. And you look back, and you’ve just gone through ten years of misery.
But if you love the work, if the work doesn’t feel like work for you… And here’s a great example. A lot of you guys in the Man Up group, and I know a lot of guys watching this video – because this is the people we attract through our videos, are into fitness are at least are trying to get into fitness. And many of them are into fitness.
And a great example is, remember when you first started working out? And it was work. And the people who look at it as a pain to be endured don’t stick through. They’re the type of people who buy a gym membership at Christmas time, or at New Year, and then drop out by Valentine’s Day. That’s like 90 percent of people who own gym memberships. There’s a statistic I heard that it was over 85 percent of people only use two months of a gym membership a year.
So, those are the regular people, those are the people who are like, “Okay, I’m going to slave through this very boring, unpleasant thing in order to get some goal.” If you’re in fitness, you know you don’t lose fat like that – and for most people – they have to stick through it. And even if they do get that goal, if they don’t stick through it, if it doesn’t become a way of life, they’re going to lose it.
But if you actually learn to enjoy, if you do the fitness because you learn to enjoy the actual activity, you’re not only going to stick through with it and have the best chances of getting the result that you were originally aiming for, you’re actually going to be a lot happier and fulfilled – and that’s the route to success, and that’s the way to not be needy towards the outcome: when you enjoy the process in and of itself.
And the key to doing that is to start off already appreciating and coming from a place of appreciation/gratitude. When it comes to fitness, you can appreciate the fact that you can afford. You’re one of the rare people in the world – because most of the world is living on five bucks a day or less. You are one of those people who can afford a gym membership. You can afford the leisure time to work on your body, and that you can enjoy that feeling of dopamine rush and so on.
You actually have the luxury of doing this, and that you can start with. That’s a place you can start with because then you come to it with a positive expectation instead of a stressful expectation. And that’s the key to transforming from being needy towards the outcome to actually being lost in the outcome, to actually lose yourself in the process and being in flow throughout your life – and all these different areas of your life, whatever you want to get good that. You’re not needy towards it, and tense and stressed out about it, but you actually enjoy the process of getting there.
And if you don’t enjoy the process of getting there, you either need to find a way to enjoy it. Adjusting your mindset, that’s often all it is; just changing your perspective. Or maybe that particular activity is not suited to you and you adapt the activity to one that you enjoy. And in fitness, there are lots of different ways to get the same sort of goal and lots of different conditions that you can enjoy. And so, maybe that condition that you’re doing it in, doing it under, is not that enjoyable. You just need to tweak it and just take some experimentation.
And this is the same with life. A lot of guys have money goals, and a lot of the ways that they come up with to meet those money goals require a lot of work that they don’t enjoy – because otherwise, they would have already had the money that they wanted. Because if they enjoyed it, they would be doing it already. But it involves things that they don’t enjoy, so they’re not going to stick with it, and then they’re not going to get the goal.
Or if they beat themselves to death to get it, it’s going to be an empty victory and they’re going to have wasted all of those years looking back in pain, in misery, to get that goal. So, if you’re not loving the thing that you’re doing, you need to really re-examine what it is you’re doing and why you’re doing it. And then it’s really just about tweaking it so that you do enjoy that, or find a new activity. It’s that simple.
But the philosophy of it is very clear. If you become needy towards the outcome, you have basically decreased your chances of getting it to the greatest degree. And even if you do get it, it’s going to be a miserable ride, a miserable process. But to get that goal, your best chances of it are to find a process that gets you there and lose yourself in the enjoyment of the process itself.
So, think about that hurdler, crosses that finish line, doesn’t even look because it doesn’t matter. He’s already going to celebrate anyway, and he was celebrating before he started the run. And he’s running because it makes him feel good, because this is what he’s good at and he enjoys it.
And so, there you go. I’m going to leave you with that. Find a way to lose yourself in the process and make sure that it’s a process that you actually enjoy, and tweaking it to conditions that you could actually enjoy it. Or maybe you need to find a whole new activity, one that you can actually enjoy.
So, there you go. That’s the way to actually get what you want while having a great time doing it and being happy. Alright, so join the private Facebook group. By the way, the context for that question is best understood in terms of our live shows that I did in the group. So, to get access to those live shows, there are four of them where I went into detail on this, you need to join the Facebook group.
We approve requests every day. Just click that link. Once you click the link, you’re going to go to that Facebook group. You got to sign into Facebook, and then click Join Group. That simple. Click the link. Join the group. I’ll see you inside the Facebook group. Until then, Man Up!