September 28th, 2013

Retiring this blog, check out my new one at DerekRalston.Com

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I wanted to write everyone today to announce that I’m retiring this blog. All blog posts will remain accessible here indefinitely. It has been a great five years exploring and sharing my ideas on personal development, health, sleep, and psychology. I will continue to write, but no longer on Life Evolver.

You can find more recent writing and eBooks on my personal website DerekRalston.Com. Thanks for reading!

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February 9th, 2012

Three Ways to Break Free From the Chain of Consumerism

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Three Ways to Break Free From the Chain of Consumerism
Breaking Free From the Chains of Consumerism
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from TJ Chasteen of How-toBeHappy.com.

So you want to be happy, yet you find one of the largest hindrances to this is the amount of time you slave away at work. Day after day you dread waking-up, hit snooze 16 times (you were smart enough to set the clock a tad bit early), roll out of bed, go waste valuable life in exchange for currency, come home watch TV, and repeat. Sounds familiar right? Well that’s how it works for nearly everyone, in a matter of fact it is so common that it seems normal!

But my friend I am here to tell you it is not normal at all, it is conditioned… And it can be broken once you find the culprit (soon to be revealed).

Dig a Little Deeper

My darling girlfriend of many many years, was watching Disney’s The Princess and The Frog when a cute old lady with a triple neck bursts into a musical. The theme of the song was that in order to be happy we must not know what we “want” but instead know what we “need”. To do this we must dig a little deeper inside ourselves to find out what we really value in life. Oh great you’re thinking, this guy is going to take that old route (live on necessities only). No that’s not what I am suggesting, however it is a smidgen similar.

Our culture has taught us that in order to be happy we must follow a familiar pattern. One that looks something like this: Step A + Step B + Step C + Step D = Happiness. With the steps following a similar pattern to these:

Step A – Spend loads getting a sound education, have a blast doing it, and obtain everything you want during this youthful stage.

Step B – Use your education and go get yourself a good job.

Step C – Spend the next 35 + years working your tail off until you pay everything back from Step A.

Step D – Congrats you are 60+ and if life worked out perfectly you get to spend the rest of your health-ridden life doing as you please. However, many find this impossible because they do not know how to live a life that is different than the one they’ve had for so long!

Wow glamorous right? Most people have been so dog-gone busy that they have not even had time to look at their own lives to see if they are a current victim. Are you? hmm…

These Culprits Double Team Us

What I am suggesting is to simply have less “wants” and have less expense to live free. Easier said than done, sure. In American society (I realize many readers come from elsewhere), the system functions on consumerism. Our citizens are constantly being tempted with new gizmos and gadgets. Buy the iPhone 3 to be cool, (shortly after) buy the iPhone 4 to be cool, (shorty after) buy the iPhone 4s to be cool. It’s ridiculous and insane the way things work here and in many similar countries. The pressure to fit in with peers and regular members of society is extreme and to do that one must continue to consume.

The irony is that in an attempt to get away from work and find true happiness, people trap themselves in it even more deeply.

How do people have fun outside of work?

  • $$$ Bar
  • $$$ Dinner
  • $$$ Vacation
  • $$$ Movies

What do people do to cure depression and unhappiness caused by working every free day of their lives?

  • $$$ Shopping spree
  • $$$ Spa
  • $$$ Manicure
  • $$$ New “Toys” (Computer, Truck, Fishing Pole) ~~~ Sorry girls, the list was becoming a bit female dominated.

In order to pay for all of these short term solutions to happiness, trapped consumers of the world must continue chugging along and hooting their stem engines while they work to support the habit.

Having more wants only means having more failures. The more we want the more chances of not getting everything we desire, resulting in sadness. To want less is to appreciate what we have. If we want less we depend on money less and slowly develop a sense of liberation from it.

Expenses are the real chain keeping you locked away from happiness – A consumer can never be free of work unless they learn to have less expenses. When you really sit back and look at it, are the things that force you to work worth the time you spend trading life for them? For example is a $30.00 Pampered Chef Magic Chopper really worth the 1, 2, 3 hours someone gives away at work to earn it? Or would it have been perfectly okay for them to have spent an extra 15 seconds a meal chopping the carrots themselves? (Who knows how much time one of those things would save you anyhow, plus like most things bought with the traded life people spend to earn them, it would probably end up in the landfill.) Way to be green happy consumers!

Three Ways to Break Free

If you truly wish to beat the system then you must be willing to make a HUGE life adjustment. One must learn to “dig a little deeper” and live by being able to fulfill their needs by working less.

1) Work less – Your time is more valuable than the money you trade it for. Learn to live with a lower amount of expenses that way you can spend less time chained up working. Some people manage this by working a seasonal or part-time position where they bring in enough money to cover their needs. As long as your expenses are covered then the rest of your time can be spent living. Make sure you are working to live, not living to work.

2) Stockpile - Another great strategy is to work hard for a number of years while saving like crazy and spending very little. The idea behind this is to save up enough money to live on the interest. While working yourself to death certainly isn’t a solution to break free, it is a solution should it be for a limited number of years. If you can manage to save up enough money in 15 years to live on it’s interest and therefore retire early, then you by all means have beat the system.

3) Make your money work for you – When consumerists run out to the stores and spend their hard earned greenbacks on materialistic things, their money isn’t working for them. Their money is instead working for 1% of the population which holds 99% of the wealth. To make your money work for you figure out exactly what you need it for and see past the cultural trends of throwing it away on useless items that will be discarded in the near future. This doesn’t mean be cheap. If you need pots and pans by the best darn pots and pans there are that way you don’t ever have to replace them! However avoid the other little cheapo nick-knacks that line the shelves of Wally World.

A Real-World Example: Jacob the Stockpiler

There are people who learn to live on as little as $20,000 or even $7,000 a year such as Jacob Fisker.

Jacob was a stockpiler, he managed to retire in his 30′s by working hard and being a slave to his job for five years while living on 7,000 a year. After saving an amount he was satisfied with he was able to use the money saved and retire by living only on its interest! For example, 140,000 dollars makes an interest of 5% per year which would give Jacob the $7000 he needed everyday to survive. And yes his health insurance is included in this number. Of course 7,000 probably won’t cut it for many people but it is a strategy for living frugally for a set number of years 10, 15, 20 (still beats 35 any day) and then retiring before one is too old to walk the beach without a cane.

If you’re not happy now, ask yourself what really makes you happy? Would more free time but a simpler life spent with those who matter be a better solution?

Three Ways to Break Free From the Chain of Consumerism
tj chasteen
TJ Chasteen is the founder of How-toBeHappy.com. TJ believes nothing is more important than living a life full of happiness. He promotes free happiness research, strategies, and how-to guides to improve life-long happiness on his blog.

Chains image copyright Sfu.Marcin – Flickr.com

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January 30th, 2012

Breaking Free from the Status Quo

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Breaking Free from the Status QuoEditor’s Note: This is a guest post from Tristan Montoya of Student of Life.

Do you believe that what you do for a living is who you are?

Seriously, do you identify most with your job, your house, your car, the school you went to, or the city you live in?

Because these are some of the things we, as humans, identify with. Our ego selves would have us believe that we are our physical bodies, our past, our conditioning, our social standing in life, and even the material things that we possess. It creates its sense of value this way.

But the higher self knows better.

It knows that we are, in truth, spiritual beings.

If you’re concerned that you haven’t found your path or have strayed from it, I would tell you that where you are at this point in your life is not who you are — it is simply the situation you find yourself in, and have created, perhaps on an unconscious level. The situation is designed to teach you — as all of life is intended to do — and if you heed the lesson and understand its implications then you can begin anew at any time to recreate yourself. You are only pigeonholed if you believe yourself to be.

Your circumstances do not define you. Neither do your friends or your religion, for that matter.

You are a spiritual being and you are more powerful than you know — but you must re-member this truth.

You’re more than just another citizen, employee, social security number, and human being that shares space and oxygen with others on this earth.

You came into this world for a reason. And you brought with you a reason for being, a gift to give to this world.

You brought with you an intention.

And what that intention is, only you know.

Maybe you’ve already heard the call from within to pursue it. Perhaps you’ve ignored it, or sought means to distract yourself. But still it persists.

The call may have been present in our childhood years when we could actually remember our soul’s purpose. At this tender age we had no reason to believe that our dreams would not come true. We had faith in a certain magical quality of life kept alive by our childlike innocence — only to have adults and the people that ‘love us’ tell us not to get caught up in wishful or fanciful thinking. They told us it’s not practical or feasible and that it is best not to set our hopes high because we’ll only become disappointed later in life. ‘Do like everyone else,’ they tell us. ‘Play it safe and you’ll be alright.’ Already we’ve been instilled with a false sense of security — hence we seek to control our circumstances, rather than be guided by intuition and mysterious synchronicities, which would indicate a kind of surrender to a power greater than our understanding. The ego is not willing to give up this control. The paradox, however, is that while it seeks to stand out and proclaim itself special and different, it also craves acceptance and approval, making its power totally dependent on others.

And as it pertains to those well meaning adults in our lives, it’s often times them who gave up on their dreams early in life only to unconsciously try to keep others from breaking free. This pattern must now be broken. But first you must become conscious of how this is pattern repeats itself — and then consciously break the cycle. We must be vigilant that underneath the ‘care and concern’ that the adults in our lives exhibit toward us, what is actually occurring is that  their fears are becoming our fears through mental programming.  God forbid we should face a bit of hardship and even failure on our path — but adults do not see clearly through their fear-based perception of the world — and only want what’s best for us. We have to develop compassion for them, and understand they’re only doing the best they know how to do.

Most of us have been exposed to conditioning both at home and in school through repetition and rote memorization, combined with negative reinforcement. Those labeled “dreamers” are said to be unrealistic and impractical. The artists, dancers, writers, and musicians are often times told that they won’t make a living following their passions. Those disillusioned by this effect may then trudge through life (having been conditioned) forgoing their own natural sense of intuition or inner guidance, in favor of socially acceptable pursuits. Following the mainstream will get us things like the coveted college admission, potential for long-term employment, bonuses, 401k’s, a mortgage, and social status. This is “security” adults tell us. This is what we should want.

But with our child-like fascination and instinct we can feel something wrong with this — we see that that same adult educating us about ‘the way of the world’ is at the mercy of their employer and the economy to uphold their illusion. We also see clearly the economic trap that awaits us, essentially ensuring our enslavement as we strive toward the attainment of material things. And if our instincts aren’t clear enough, we only have to perceive how these old ideals are now evolving in these changing times. Indeed, old economic and social paradigms are now falling apart around us as a new reality takes shape.

All progress comes from those who do not take the accepted view, nor accept the world as it is.”
-Neville

Many have given up their personal power and put it in the system. They’ve long since quieted their wise inner voice, instead tuning into a group consciousness, whether they’re conscious of it or not.

If you’re lost, then just look for some of the many clues alerting you to your natural inclinations, talents and interests. Children reveal this to us all the time. They naturally gravitate towards that which ‘calls’ to them and lay down the things that don’t pique their interest in the slightest. The problem is that there’s another voice — that of conditioning, fear, and limiting belief in oneself — that denies you of your rightful inheritance to learn your soul’s purpose, experience your greatness, and discover your reason for being.

David Deida offers a very astute analogy in his book, ‘The Way of the Superior Man.’ He describes one’s life purpose as a “concentric circle,” and that by working from the outside in, layer by layer, you will soon discover the core of who you are and why you’re here. This is a life-long process, and it’s never too late to begin peeling back the layers — but there’s also no reason to hesitate!

I say you should “try on” different jobs, areas of study, life paths, activities, countries, friends, partners, and even personalities, until you find one that fits. That’s what makes life fun — variety! And it is this very process of self discovery that will bring back the joy into your life that following the herd can never deliver.

Reinvent yourself until you arrive at the person you want to be, the life you want to have, doing what you love with the people that allow you to be YOU!

Be a creator, not a competitor.

Take back your life and live it how you see fit, not how others have envisioned it for you — or worse, expected of you.

Whenever I fall into a pattern of thinking that I’d rather just stop going against the grain and be like everyone else — that I’d rather just fit in, seek outside approval, and rejoin group consciousness (or herd mentality), thereby turning off my intuition and inner intelligence — I stop myself and repeat something I heard Wayne Dyer, one of my favorite spiritual teachers, once say:

I would rather be loathed for who I am, than loved for who I am not.”

Yes, it sounds absolute — but it’s powerful! Staying the course takes courage. It requires you to break away from the herd and asks that you learn to be comfortable spending time alone, sometimes without distraction, to uncover your mission, your purpose, your passion.

Don’t settle for anything less than you know yourself to be. The dream contained within you as a seed must take shape and grow to its full potential. You know if the life you’re living is your truth or a lie. And if you find it is the latter, then chances are the unrest in the seat of your soul will only persist and get louder if you seek to silence it, or distract yourself from hearing its voice.

So, it is up to you to either break free from the status quo that contains you, or settle for a mediocre life.

The choice is yours.

You will either step forward into growth, or you will step backward into safety.”
-Abraham Maslow

Breaking Free from the Status Quo
Tristan Montoya
Tristan Montoya writes for his website Student of Life, which deals largely with spiritual awareness, self-growth, and conscious evolution. He considers himself an open-minded student who is actively and continually learning from life’s many lessons. He is constantly amazed at the surprises found on the spiritual path and at the mysterious workings of the universe. He hopes to share his experiences and insights in a way that will assist others in finding their own truth and path in life.

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January 26th, 2012

Free Happiness Handbook When You Join Life Evolver on Facebook

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Free Happiness Handbook When You Join Life Evolver on Facebook
Life Evolver on Facebook

Want the free Evolve Your Life Happiness Handbook? I’m giving it away to readers who join Life Evolver on Facebook.

5 Reasons to Join Life Evolver on Facebook

1. Share: Life hacks and tips with like-minded individuals.

2. Learn: New personal growth tips in Life Evolver blog posts.

3. Exclusive Giveaways: eBook giveaways for members of Life Evolver on Facebook (Free Happiness Handbook when you join!)

4. Make Friends: Meet other personal growth-oriented individuals.

5. Ask Questions: Post your life hack and personal growth questions here for a quick answer.

Evolve Your Life Happiness Handbook

Free Happiness Handbook When You Join Life Evolver on FacebookYou’ve heard the advice, “Go to school, get a good job, get promoted, climb the corporate ladder, and you will eventually find happiness.” All too often, people follow this society-prescribed path to success, falsely believing that it will lead them to happiness.

This mini-book teaches:

  • An alternative blueprint for happiness, based on research from numerous books and scientific studies, along with Derek’s personal experience
  • How to change your rat racer or hedonist way of life
  • 13 steps for finding happiness

Like personal growth? Share life hacks and tips with like-minded individuals. Make positive changes to your life.

To get your free happiness handbook, join Life Evolver on Facebook Now!

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January 25th, 2012

5 Reasons to Join Life Evolver on Facebook

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5 Reasons to Join Life Evolver on Facebook
Life Evolver on Facebook
Life Evolver is now on Facebook. Why now? I’ve made the long-overdue decision to disable blog comments. At the same time, I want a way to communicate with readers. The Facebook Page (along with Twitter) will replace communication that happened via blog comments in the past. Also, Life Evolver on Facebook will allow readers to share tips and interact.

5 Reasons to Join Life Evolver on Facebook

1. Share: Life hacks and tips with like-minded individuals.

2. Learn: New personal growth tips in Life Evolver blog posts.

3. Exclusive Giveaways: eBook giveaways for members of Life Evolver on Facebook

4. Make Friends: Meet other personal growth-oriented individuals.

5. Ask Questions: Post your life hack and personal growth questions here for a quick answer.

Like personal growth? Share life hacks and tips with like-minded individuals. Make positive changes to your life. Join Life Evolver on Facebook Now!

How Can Life Evolver on Facebook be Improved?

Do you have ideas for improving Life Evolver on Facebook? Post them to the Facebook page or Tweet @derekralston.

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January 24th, 2012

Using Facebook, Youtube and Twitter Too Much? Create Healthy Habits for Your Free Time

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Using Facebook, Youtube and Twitter Too Much? Create Healthy Habits for Your Free Time

The future will belong not only to the educated man, but to the man who is educated to use his leisure wisely.

-C. K. Brightbill

What do the Internet (Facebook / Youtube / Twitter), television, newspapers, film and radio have in common? These are all forms of mass media. If you spend your free time passively consuming mass media, it is likely to be disappointing in the long-run. Mass media consumption requires very little psychological energy, and rarely helps you grow. Its purpose is not to make you happy. It is (usually) to make someone else money. And by passively consuming the same information as everyone else, you are likely to think like everyone else.

As technology continues to improve, it is becoming easier than ever for you to spend your free time passively, living vicariously through the creations of others. An example would be getting home from work and deciding to watch television or Youtube videos instead of creating something of your own. You are stagnating during your free time when you could be growing. This is okay occasionally, as you need time to relax and recover after work. The problem is when it becomes a daily habit (e.g. watching television for 4-5 hours per day).

Create Healthy Habits For Your Free Time: Mass Media Rehab

By using your free time to create and grow, instead of passively consuming, you will find yourself living a more meaningful life.

Create your own content: You wouldn’t be reading this blog post if I hadn’t started LifeEvolver.Com four years ago. With the Internet, it’s easier than ever to create your own content and get instant feedback. For example, you could start your own a blog or create videos on Youtube today. Immediate feedback from the online community could help you improve and refine your talent. This type of instant feedback wasn’t available to artists 50 years ago. And don’t forget to reach out to friends and family for feedback as well.

Examples: Write your own book, create your own movie, start your own blog, create a video on Youtube

Become an active contributor: You can continue to use mass media, but become an active contributor. The Internet is the easiest form of mass media to participate in. Did you know that only 1-2% of website visitors actually contribute content? This is the case for Wikipedia and most other websites (Benkler 2007). If you have a valuable opinion, or are an expert on a subject, why not share it with others? You might be surprised how much feedback you start getting, how many interesting people you meet along the way, and how good it feels to contribute to a greater cause. You can help support online communities by content, contributing feedback, comments, and ratings to websites.

Examples: Create an article on Wikipedia, comment on a blog post, rate a Youtube video, edit a spelling error on a Wikipedia article

Get away from mass media: As with your work, it’s healthy to create a daily ritual of disconnecting from your home computer and television. There are plenty of leisure activities which do not require the passive consumption of mass media.

Examples: Play a sport, learn to play an instrument, create art, create music, exercise, join an improvisation group

Create goals for how you use your free time: Choose goals that are intrinsically rewarding. This means that you enjoy the process of reaching your goals. Also make sure that your goals are challenging, have clear objectives, a clear timeline and performance criteria.

Example: Let’s say that you decide to create a leisure time goal of reading one book per week. Choose books that you enjoy reading, and you will enjoy the process of reaching this goal. Your goal would be “I will read one book per week of at least 200 pages for the next three months, starting on April 1st and finishing on June 30th.”

Creating Healthy Work and Leisure Habits

Using Facebook, Youtube and Twitter Too Much? Create Healthy Habits for Your Free TimeFor more tips on creating healthy work and leisure / free time habits, ready my mini-book Escape the Rat Race:

Escape the Rat Race: Change Your Mind or Take the Emergency Exit
How can you escape the rat race? Should you change your job? Or can you keep it, while making smaller changes to your daily habits and ways of thinking? This mini-book explores both options, and teaches you when each is appropriate for escaping the rat race.

Creating Alternate Sources of Income During Your Free Time

Are you interested in creating alternate sources of income during your free time? Check out my other mini-book Modern Moonlighting:

Using Facebook, Youtube and Twitter Too Much? Create Healthy Habits for Your Free Time
Modern Moonlighting: Keep Your Day Job, Make Extra Money, Do What You Love
How can you create alternative sources of income while keeping your day job? This mini-book teaches you how to start moonlighting and gain more independence from your job.

Sources:

  • Benkler, Y. (2007). The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. Yale University Press.
  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2008). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. 1ST Edition. Harper Perennial Modern Classics.

Using Facebook, Youtube and Twitter Too Much? Create Healthy Habits for Your Free Time photo credit: zophonias

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January 22nd, 2012

Socialization and How to Break Free From Rat Racer Values

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Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.

-Aristotle, Politics

Socialization and How to Break Free From Rat Racer ValuesTo be part of a society, you need to be socialized. Random House Dictionary defines socialization as “a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.” Your family members, school teachers, and peer groups were all part of the socialization process. They let you know exactly what your “social position” was and taught you a set of values which helped you fit in with society. The process you went through is not unique to humans: all mammals are social creatures. For example, meerkat young learn by watching and mimicking adult behavior. Adult meerkats also actively teach their pups.

Unfortunately, human socialization has some unintended consequences. One of these is the seeking of external approval and applying of external goals to your life. When submit to completely, external approval and external goals start running your life. If you are to take control of your consciousness and pursue your own goals, you must first learn to break free from your rat racer values.

The Problem: Rat Racer Values

Here are the rat racer values you may want to break free from:

Money- “I want to be rich”: Falsely believing that you will be happy when you make more money. Becoming a workaholic to make more money.

Things- “I want to accumulate more things”: Falsely believing that accumulating more possessions will make you happy. Valuing things over people and experiences.

Status / Approval- “I want to be liked and fit in”: Pursuing a career path that Mom or Dad told you to go after. Working at a job you hate to pay for your family’s high consumption. Not speaking up at work when you have a good idea, for fear of getting shot down. Falsely believing that once you obtain status, people will like and respect you. Trying to “keep up with the Joneses.” Becoming popular with lots of people, but not building close relationships with individuals.

Power- “I want to dominate”: Using others only as a means to achieve your goals. Trying to one-up others, dominate conversations. Constantly pinpointing other people’s weaknesses and failures.

Each individual has their own unique set of rat racer values. Some may accentuate the value of Money, others may accentuate Approval. Some individuals may not have all of these values.

People who submit completely to these social values, and mistakenly believe that their happiness is obtained only by achieving external goals, are rat racers who never enjoy the present moments of life:

Schools, churches, and banks try to turn us into responsible citizens willing to work hard and save . . . merchants, manufacturers, and advertisers to spend our earnings on products that will produce the most profits for them . . . gamblers, pimps, and drug dealers promise rewards for easy dissipation- provided we pay. The messages are very different, but their outcome is essentially the same: they make us dependent on a social system that exploits our energies for its own purposes.

-Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow

The Solution: Take Control of Your Consciousness

Socialization and How to Break Free From Rat Racer ValuesTo break free from rat racer values, you must seek personally-selected goals built from your personal values. Going back to Aristotle’s quote, “Society is something that precedes the individual”, isn’t seeking your own goals selfish? No. Society will actually benefit more from you pursuing your own intrinsic goals. A study done by the University of Rochester’s Human Motivation Research Group found that people whose motivation was “self-authored” exhibited more interest, excitement, and confidence, as well as greater persistence, creativity and performance than a control group who were motivated by external demands and rewards.

Read my free happiness handbook for the full solution:

Evolve Your Life Happiness Handbook
You’ve heard the advice, “Go to school, get a good job, get promoted, climb the corporate ladder, and you will eventually find happiness.” All too often, people follow this society-prescribed path to success, falsely believing that it will lead them to happiness. This mini-book teaches an alternative blueprint for happiness, based on research from numerous books and scientific studies, along with Derek’s personal experience.

Socialization and How to Break Free From Rat Racer Values photo credit: lucyb_22

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