Feeling good feels good, if my tautology class taught me anything, and given the choice, most people would prefer to feel good all the time. And yet so much of our time is spent doing things that don't feel good, like working, or wearing undergarments, or getting fired from our job because of dress code violations.
"Remember me not as I am, but as I was, proud and naked as hell."
It's helpful, then, to keep on hand a list of things that actually do make us feel good, accomplishments that provide legitimate satisfaction, which we can redirect our energies to whenever we're feeling low. Below I've compiled such a list, which I encourage you to, as with all my columns, print off and tape to the side of your monitor for later reference.
#7. Fixing Something
I discovered the satisfaction inherent in this the other day when my washing machine started leaking water. Fixing appliances had always seemed to me a skill far beyond mortal man, the domain of demigods with their names on their shirts. But after working up the nerve, I pulled the front panel off, found a leaking hose, took it to the hose farm to get a replacement, and replaced it. And it worked! I had fixed something!
I had tamed the wild beast.
To be clear, this was an extremely easy fix, the kind of job you'd use to teach a baby about appliance repair. But that didn't stop me from strutting around the house like I was some kind of cross between Han Solo and a god-damned sorcerer. Seriously, the next time something in your house breaks, try fixing it yourself first, because there are few things more satisfying than pulling it off, and the confidence you'll gain is its own massive reward.
"Sweetie, will you please stop flexing at and trash-talking the oven?"
#6. Emptying Your To-Do List
Getting shit done is a remarkably satisfying sensation, even if none of the individual pieces of shit are particularly memorable.
"Each turd is nothing special, but collectively ... well, collectively, this enriches me."
You get a sensation like you're really getting on top of things, like you're finally, after so many setbacks and failed Subway franchises, getting a handle on being a human being. You get more or less the same feeling when you clean up your email inbox, or pay off a bunch of bills, or finally tackle Laundry Mountain. Getting a list of tasks down to zero is incredibly rewarding, and is when we're most likely to tackle larger projects, or start on something bigger.
Or just let them all pile up again while we watch Archer reruns.
#5. Making Something
I've talked about this a bit in the past (and so has Wong, only, you know, better), but it bears repeating as many times as possible: There are few things more satisfying in life than making something. When something exists in the world because of you, that is a profoundly powerful feeling, a bitter shout into the uncaring darkness of the universe that you matter.
"Eat my shit, entropy."
It doesn't matter what it is, it just has to not exist before you showed up on the scene and exist once you're done. Whether it's a short story, a coffee table, or a hydroelectric dam, you'll have a little more spring in your step the rest of your life, and a way better story when someone asks what you did last weekend.
#4. Seeing Someone Enjoy Something You Made
Unless you live alone in a mountain cave and spend your spare time trying to steal major holidays, you will derive some measure of self-worth from how others perceive you and your accomplishments. Seeing people use, enjoy, and congratulate you for something you've made is perhaps even more enjoyable a feeling than simply making it. You might not need validation technically, but that doesn't stop it from feeling good when it shows up.
"This is way better than sitting in the dirt, Ted."
"You have no idea how much it means to hear you say that."