“It's nice to have other people recognize your gains but what matters more than anyone else's perspective is your perspective of your own gains.”
Dr Benjamin Hardy
Most people, especially highly ambitious people, are unhappy because of how they measure their progress. We all have an “ideal,” a moving target that is always out of reach. When we measure ourselves against that ideal, we’re in “the GAP.” However, when we measure ourselves against our previous selves, we’re in “the GAIN.”
Today’s guest, Dr. Benjamin Hardy, is one of my all-time favorite authors. In his new book, The GAP and the GAIN: The High Achievers’ Guide to Happiness, Confidence, and Success, he delivers a masterclass on positive psychology, healthy relationships, mental well-being, and high-performance. He explores why unsuccessful, unhappy people focus on “the GAP,” but successful, happy people focus on “the GAIN.”
In this conversation, Benjamin makes his third appearance on the podcast to talk about how to stop focusing on the GAP and turn your biggest hurdles into massive gains, and what you can do to stay in the GAIN each and every day.
- Why associating our emotional well-being with targets that are out of reach sets us up to be chronically unhappy.
- Why you don’t need to make millions of dollars to be in the GAIN.
- How to reframe a situation to shift your focus and emphasize the positive.
- Why focusing on the GAIN is not the same thing as dismissing pain or disappointment.
- Why we’re always moving beyond our former selves–and life as a whole takes on whatever meaning you give to it.
- And much more…
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Hal Elrod: Dr. Benjamin Hardy, welcome to the podcast, buddy.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Dude, Hal, I love you, man. I’m happy to be here.
Hal Elrod: I love you too. You know, this is the third time I've had you on. I went and searched my episodes because I go, “Oh, I thought it was a second. No, it’s the third time. The first time I had you on was Episode 216. That was talking about your book Willpower Doesn't Work. Then I had you on Episode 327 talking about your book Personality Isn't Permanent. And today we're talking about your book, The Gap and The Gain, and there was even one that came out in between those two. What was that? Who Not How, right? Who Not How with Dan Sullivan that I didn't get you on the podcast for that one.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Alright, man.
Hal Elrod: I think you're the first author I've ever had on the podcast three times, specifically talking about your books, and that just shows what a good writer you are. Honestly, like this book, The Gap and The Gain, to me, it's such a simple concept. It's repeated over and over and over. And to me, that's what most books where they fall short is they try to impress you with how much knowledge the author has and, “Ooh, listen to this concept over here and I got this other cool thing over here. This one will change your life and did you know about this?” And they throw the kitchen sink at you and you end the book going, “God, that was great. I don't remember any of it.” Right? And this book, you walk away going, “Oh, I'm going to stop living my life in the gap. I'm going to start living in the gain and just reading the book knowing that, already transformed my life as a reader. So, yeah, I didn't plan on starting with all of that praise but that's it, man.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: I appreciate that. That is a learning curve I'm going through as a writer. I would say my first two books were kitchen sinks that I was throwing at people and I guess that fits in the alignment of I like the quote, “It's better to make a compelling offer than a convincing argument.” And I think my first two books were me trying to make convincing arguments where like willpower doesn't work, trying to prove why that's true. And I believe that those books had a lot of value but I think the more recent iterations are, I'm realizing, just have one goal that you're trying to accomplish. You don't need to solve world problems. This is one concept. Just actually do a good job delivering one idea. And I'm still working towards that but I'm glad that you saw that.
Hal Elrod: You nailed it. In fact, I'm on page 100. I was looking today. I’m on page 157. I got like 50 pages to go to finish this thing but it's incredible. And the way I read books, I read them really slow. I read a chapter. I underlined along the way. And then when I'm done, I go back and I reread all of my underlines. And so, it takes me a while to get to the books. But I want to start here. So, the opening line of this book, I was like, “Ohh.” You had me at hello kind of thing. In fact, I wrote in the margin, okay, let me go to the beginning of the book because I wrote a note. When I read books too, I read them as a reader and as an author going, “What can I model from this that was done really, really well?” And I actually wrote in the margin you can literally see, I'm holding it up. It says, “Model this strong opening line.” That's what it says. So, for my next book, I'm going to read this, everybody. This is from the introduction. “Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and Americans have been unhappy ever since.” Ohh, right? And then, of course, I had to keep going. “One specific phrase has come to define American culture in psychology: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
And I think you nailed one of the biggest challenges within our culture, which is that we associate our emotional well-being, our happiness with outside forces, with targets, with things that are out of reach, and then when we achieve that thing, it's exciting for a moment, it's quickly where we move past it, and the happiness moves further and further away. So, talk about like this opening quote and how it sets the premise for the rest of the book.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Yeah. It is fun that you see things as a writer and as a reader. I was pretty stoked about that opening line too. It was kind of not what I expected. You know, luckily for me, with some of my books, I collaborate with Dan Sullivan and we just have conversations, and he's such a history buff that he was the one who was like talking about how Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson this, Thomas Jefferson that. You know what I mean? And so, I just thought, "That's a really interesting place to start.” It takes forever because as you know, when you're writing a book, you have tons of disorganized thoughts and stories and so to find a starting place takes work. But I think kind of the big, big idea here is this. As human beings, we're actually very driven by our views of the future. In psychology, they actually call that prospection that we all like it's actually beautiful. It's why human beings can literally form a house. If you look at my house like it took having a vision to actually create this. You can't build anything without seeing the future. And so, that's actually what makes us intelligent beings is that we can see futures and go create them.
The challenge that we're faced with here is how we measure ourselves. How Dan talks about it is we all have ideals, and those ideals are like the horizon in the desert. Like, you see the ideal, that ideal is what's driving you, it's what you want, but you're never going to reach it because no matter how far you step forward, like the horizon, it keeps moving with you. And so, if you're always placing your happiness at the ideal, if you're always measuring your current self against the ideal, then basically you've made happiness an impossible battle. And that's kind of what we're dealing with is we're always measuring our current happiness against our ideal, which ideal constantly moves as we progress forward. And so, it's not necessarily the problem of having a future, it's that we're always measuring ourselves against that future, which is always moving.
Hal Elrod: And would you say that's why most people are relatively unhappy? In fact, I read there was a recent poll done in the book and it was 14% of Americans describe themselves as very unhappy or not very happy, something along those lines. You feel like that's the cause? Before you answer that, whether you are a high achiever and you talk a lot about that in the book, right? It's like even if you're extraordinarily successful, you're still not happy. From the outside, people look at success and people go, “Wow. Must be amazing to be them.” And while that person's fighting this battle, I can relate to this, this battle inside that, “I'm never doing enough. I'm never contributing enough. I'm never helping enough people. I need something.” You know what I mean? Like, it's this daunting treadmill, as it's called. Yeah. Talk about that. Is this the cause of unhappiness you think in America and beyond?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Yeah. Because, I mean, America is very idealistic and ideals are great. Ideals provide direction. But if you're always measuring yourself against them, then you're devaluing your current position. You're devaluing everything you did before. You're devaluing your current self. And so, yeah, that is the challenge. And what makes it even more difficult, especially for the rising generation who spends eight hours plus a day on social media is that they're presented all of these ideals and all of these images that then they're measuring themselves against. And so, now their ideals are coming from outside forces and they're measuring themselves against other people. And so, there's always this comparison and never feeling like you're measuring up. And as a parent, this can even happen as well. Like where I'm measuring my own kids against my ideals and I'm always like upping the bar does not matter.
And you know this, I've adopted three kids from the foster system. Like, they've made massive gains. They're like totally different people and have progressed so much. But if all I'm pointing out to them is why they're not yet where they should be, “Oh yeah, good job. You got a B-minus on that test but why didn't you get an A?” or like, “Yeah, but you could have been here.” Like, my son's really into tennis and I go and watch his tournaments. It's like it doesn't matter how good or bad he is. I could always just say, “Well, you could have done better.” And so, like it does not matter how much he's progressed or how far he's come, I'm always making happiness or success an impossibility for him and we do that for ourselves all the time.
Hal Elrod: I think that's a great point is that our quality of life is so much about perspective, and if your perspective, and I want to talk about The Gap and The Gain here next, if you're in the gap, if you're focusing on what's wrong or what you don't have or comparing yourself against an ideal, that can go on for the rest of your life no matter how much money you make, no matter how much success you achieve, right? It's a mindset and your life will suck. You have everything you ever wanted, and you'll be like celebrities that turn to drugs, alcohol, or suicide because in your mind, you're living in the gap and your life sucks. Or you can have a really modest life, right? Maybe not even achieve all your dreams but actually be present in every moment to everything that you have, which is what I would call being in the gain. And you have an amazing life. And so, if you're listening to this right now, I want you to realize that all change begins and ends internally with your perspective. So, talk about that. What's the gap? What's the gain? What's the difference?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Absolutely. So good. And there's really a few different lenses for this but I'll keep it super simple. One way of looking at the gap is that it's you measuring yourself against an ideal, whatever that ideal is. So, like as an example, I might go home and like my ideal is that the house is totally clean, right? But like I'll go in the gap if I'm like I go home and there's a little bit of a mess and I'm like, “Oh, great. Why isn't this what I thought it was?” You could go in the gap about a lot of things. Dan kind of discovered this concept or formulated it because like a regular aspect of Strategic Coach, which is his company, is people come every 90 days and they report their progress and they then start thinking about their own thinking, come up with new ways of thought about their goals and their future. And what he would regularly find is no matter how much one of his entrepreneurs had accomplished, they often devalued that progress by saying like, “Yeah, here's all the things we accomplished but we didn't do this. We didn't do that. We could have done this.”
And so, the gap is just when you measure yourself or an experience or even someone else against an ideal and our ideals are always fluctuating. Even situationally, my kids could come to the table for dinner and they go in the gap if they're not happy with the meal that's placed before them. If they're like, “Oh, why didn't you get pizza?” Like, okay, they're measuring what's there against an ideal in their head and so they've now devalued this experience, and therefore they've made it a negative like they've actually gone backwards emotionally. Even though they just got a meal, because they're in the gap, they actually feel worse than they did before they got that meal because they've measured against an ideal. And so, being in the gap really puts you backwards always. You're always kind of being pushed backwards, no matter what it is.
Hal Elrod: And is it backwards as in a deficit, yeah?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Yeah. You're in a deficit like you're worse off because of what just happened. My kids are worse off than they were prior to the meal because it's not what they thought it could have been. And you can be in the gap about your whole past. I actually believe that trauma is a byproduct of being in the gap about something like some negative event occurred. I know that you've had some crazy experiences, right? Overcome like life and death experiences you have. I actually have in similar ways as well even my dad being a drug addict, right? And so, like we all go through hard experiences and the trauma actually occurs because you've framed it against what you thought it should have been or what you wish had occurred. You feel like, why did this happen to me? Why couldn't it have been different? Healing of the past from my standpoint occurs once you actually turn it into a gain. You actually start to appreciate what had happened. But to keep it simple, the gap is when you're measuring yourself or anything against an ideal. The gain is when you measure yourself or anything against where it was before. You start to become self-referencing.
So, like for me, for example, I'm in the gain if I'm no longer measuring myself against Hal Elrod but I'm only measuring myself against Ben Hardy and against where Ben Hardy was last week or last month or last year. I'm only referencing against my past self and I'm seeing my gains. Even if I didn't accomplish everything I wanted to, I am seeing that I am actually further than I was even yesterday. Even if I didn't accomplish any of my goals today, I still did have experiences and I did make progress. I did make gains. And so, one way of looking at it is just that you're only measuring yourself against yourself, and then we can go whatever direction left from here, is that being in the gain is also about transforming an experience into a gain that like no matter what happened, I can turn this into a gain. I can learn from this. I can be better because of this. And so, it's just a really profound, positive mindset. It eliminates competition but it also allows you to be the architect of the meaning of your past.
Hal Elrod: You know, I relate that you mentioned the life and death experiences. And when I was in the hospital for the car accident, cancer, I don't know what it was but I got in the gain while I was there. I go, “Oh, what can I learn from this? How can I overcome this? And then become a better version of myself and then be better off for the rest of my life?” And for me, I always say…
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: And you turned it into a gain massively. You turned it into deep meaning. I mean, you turned it into massive gains.
Hal Elrod: Sure. I think that hindsight is 20/20 is always said but, to me, it's like why wait until some future point to see the benefit in your current reality even when it’s challenging? In fact, the more difficult it is, usually the bigger the benefit that's on the other side of it, right? Let me ask you this. Going back to the gap, talking about comparing yourself to any ideal, one of the things you said in the book that relates to this, you said your viewpoints and judgments of your own experiences are infinitely more important than anyone else's judgments of you and of your experiences. So, I take that as I often judge myself, and it's sometimes unconscious because it's like I know better but then I find myself in this emotional state of feeling not good enough, feeling not as good as Ben Hardy. I don't have Dr. in front of my name. I've only written one book in the last year. Ben’s written like he's on his fourth, whatever, right? So, comparing ourselves against other people and you're talking about, no, it's your own judgments of yourself that matters. So, for somebody listening, what's the way? Is there a method to do that? How can you, so to speak, stop caring so much, maybe not caring but worrying and beating yourself up over what other people think about you, and really just live authentically to your own truth?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: I think this is one of the most liberating aspects of this mindset, specifically for me. And the idea is that your judgments of your own experience matter more than other people's judgments of your experience. So, for example, if I tell you, “Hal, I think it's so amazing all the things you've accomplished,” and again, this book was primarily written for high achievers. These are people who like externally, a lot of people are in awe about them but internally they feel like garbage because they don't feel like they're ever accomplishing anything and they've devalued all the progress of their past. And so, it really does not matter what other people think about your own experiences, it really matters what you think about your own experiences. And as an example, like I can never access your experience, Hal. I can't know what you're experiencing in this call or any of your experiences. The only person who has access to your own experiences is you. You can't access my experiences. And so, what matters more than anything is what do I do with my own experience?
Am I comparing this experience with someone else's? Am I devaluing it by wishing it was something else? Or am I actually choosing to value my own experiences and create value from them? And so, like as a simple example, like recently I was speaking at an event and the talk wasn't really going as well as I thought it could. And of course, in those moments, you might be thinking like, "Oh, other people aren't liking this,” and so you start worrying about what other people think. And I just went back into the gain from it and I just realized, "Look, I have no access to anyone else's experiences. I can never know what they're actually thinking. The only thing I can do is to find this experience for myself and so I'm going to actually just choose to be in the gain about it. I'm going to learn from it. I'm going to value my own experiences.” And it allows you a lot of freedom because now no longer are you actually determined by what other people think, and you can still be grateful for other people's appreciation of your progress. It's nice to have other people recognize your gains but what matters more than anyone else's perspective is your perspective of your own gains.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. I love what you just shared there because I was thinking of it in terms of if people don't like me and I allow their opinion or they don't like something I do and I allow it to affect me. But what I didn't think about is what you said, which is, let's say someone tells you, "You're amazing.” Well, if you don't believe that, it doesn't matter what they tell you. So, it really does come down to your own self-esteem at the end of the day.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Your own judgments.
Hal Elrod: Your own judgment about yourself. So, let me ask you this. When you're in the gap, right, when you're feeling down, when you're negative, when you're insecure, or when you're feeling unaccomplished, when you're comparing yourself to where you could be or should be and you're coming from that deficit, which so many people do, by the way. I get that question a ton on social media.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: We all do it, man.
Hal Elrod: We all do it, right? But on social media, "Hal, I want to think more positive but I can't stop thinking negatively. Like, how do I do it? Help me.” So, my question for you is when you're in the gap, how do you get out of it?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Such a beautiful question. Luckily, the answer really it’s simple but doesn't mean it's easy. I find the way out of the gap is to get into the gain. Like literally, the gain is the antidote to the gap. And so, whenever I'm in the gap as an example like, recently, I'm going through some conundrum, literally, accessing some money of mine like it's gotten all complex and stuff like that and I've lost a lot of money in a certain situation. And you know, it's easy…
Hal Elrod: You invested in bitcoin?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: It is crypto.
Hal Elrod: Okay.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: But literally, I'm in a situation where I...
Hal Elrod: I was in a similar situation.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Yeah. I'm in a situation where I can't access and sell it to pay taxes although I will be able to soon enough. But you're in the gap when you view yourself as losing, right? You feel like things are going backwards, right? So, I'm looking at my crypto account going down. I'm in the gap because I'm like, “Oh, why couldn't I have sold it three days ago like when it was like 10% higher?” The gain, it's much better to go into the gain, right? And so, like the way out of the gap is to go into the gain where you start actually measuring yourself against where you were before. Two years ago, I was like in no position compared to where I'm at now financially or in other ways. But also, the gain just allows you to control the meaning of your experience. And so, like I can be upset about what's going on and feel like I'm the victim of what's going on or I can recognize that, really, I'm the controller of my own experience. Like one of my favorite quotes, it comes from Neville Goddard. I actually wish I'd thrown it in the book but it never made it into the book. And the quote is, "You never actually…” Let’s see. How does the quote go?
The quote goes, “You never see the outside world, only your own reaction to it.” So, like, I never actually see the outside world. I don't even see this conversation. All I see is my reaction to this conversation. If my child is making me upset, I don't actually see them. I just see my reaction to the child. And so, the fastest way to get out of the gap is, first off, measure your gain, see where you're at versus where you were at before, and then quickly start turning this experience into a gain. How can I learn from this? What can I get out of this? Why can’t I be better as a result of this, not worse? You immediately put yourself in a position where you can actually do something rather than that you're disempowered. The gap just disempowers you and you're just a victim to whatever is happening. The gain is like, “Look, there's aspects of this I can't control but I can control how I think about it. I can control what I do because of it, and I can learn a lot from this, and I can also appreciate that my former self would have never even been in this position in the first place.”
Hal Elrod: And the benefit of that is from what you talked about in the book is something along the lines of just the benefit of positive emotions, right? We perform better when we are experiencing positive emotions. So, if we want to perform at our best every day, even if that's just performing at our best as a parent or as a human being who wants to enjoy the life that we've been blessed to live, then accessing that, the gains focusing on the gain to create those positive emotions is crucial. Would you say that gratitude is a doorway to the gain? Is that one way to get into the gain?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Hugely. Yeah. Gratitude is a great pathway to the gain. The gain is kind of, in general, a great full orientation. So, yeah, gratitude, thinking about what you're grateful for. I mean, gratitude is just a recognition of progress and it's a recognition of benefits that you may or may not have actually created and so you see them all as gains. And so, yeah, I think if I'm grateful, I'm appreciating all that I have versus devaluing what I have or focusing on what I lack, right? There's the great quote from Greg McKeown. He said, “If you focus on what you lack, you lose what you have.” Whereas if you focus on what you have, you gain what you lack. So, if you're always focusing on what you lack, you're actually literally losing what you have. And what you have is enormous, like what you have is abundant. I know you have kids. You live on a beautiful ranch, right? So, like if you're in the gap, you've immediately devalued everything you currently have. You lose the present, you lose all of the value of yourself, and of your life. You also lose your potential. And so, yeah, gratitude is a beautiful path to that.
Hal Elrod: So, are there any other methods for like what are some practical ways to stay in the gain? So, for somebody listening, they're like, “Oh, I'm in the gap all the time. I get this. I don't want to be in the gap. I want to be in the gain. Okay. So, be grateful. Ah, I've heard that before.” Like, are there any practical method, strategies, daily practices to stay in the gain and maintain it there?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: 100%, yeah, absolutely. And I will just say real quick and I will share a few just simple, practical tools but one of the things you said about positive emotions being a lot more effective than negative emotions is this, and there's a lot of research on this, but if gratitude being one use but like if you're in a more positive state, you perceive more options, right? Whereas if you're in a negative state, you get really tunnel vision and think, “Oh crap, like this is my only way forward. I'm screwed.” So, by being in the gain, it actually empowers you to like they call it the broaden-and-build theory in psychology. It allows you to broaden your perspective and actually realize you have more options and you can therefore take a better, more thoughtful action. Whereas if you stay in the gap, you stay in a negative situation, something might be happening and it feels negative. If you stay negative, you get tunnel visioned, and all of a sudden you don't feel like you have very many options. And so, you kind of eliminate your agency, you eliminate your choices, and then you start to get really impulsive or reactive and it leads to bad decision-making fundamentally.
But as far as like simple, practical uses, I really like a few different methods of the gain. One is like you could just grab your journal, and I really like just a normal typical journal, and you could look back at like look at your current self to your past self on different timeframes like you can go as far back as like 10 or 20 years and actually just look at like, "What are all the things that I've achieved or accomplished in the last 10 years? What have I learned? What are some of the experiences that I've had?” I look at gains not as just external accomplishments but is even like a change in how I view the world. Like, how do I look at the world differently than my past self? What are some of the great experiences I've had? What have I learned that my past self didn't know? And so, you can go back as far as you want, or you can even go back as far as just like the last hour. What did I gain in the last hour? You know, like what did I learn in the last hour? How am I different from my past self even an hour ago? What have I learned?
And so, on a regular basis, I always measure the gains of like the last week or the last month or the last year, and it's really nice for me regularly to look back and be like where was I a year ago? Like, how am I different? What have I accomplished? Or even just how have I grown? How have I changed? And it's just a great way of just continuously seeing the difference between your current self and your past life. It really helps you to see that you are transforming and growing, and it boosts your confidence that you can continue to grow and transform. So, it's very motivational. One other just simple technique that we talk about in the book is, obviously, rather than being addicted to smartphones, which we all are and procrastinating our sleep with scrolling before bed, much more powerful to just plot your journal and write down three gains for the day. Just write down what are three things that I gained today or three wins. It might not have been what you were going for but like if you start thinking about it, you can find that there were three things you either learned, three positive experiences. Even if the day went to crap and nothing was, you can still find three forms of progress or just three things that you can list as a gain, and that just allows you to continually view your past as a positive.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. I ate a killer salad for lunch today in the middle of my horrible sh*t day.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: There you go. Like, I ate that salad, right?
Hal Elrod: I was blessed to eat that salad, and I really got to enjoy it. Yeah. No. So, I've been writing in the five-minute journal for, I don't even know, six, seven, eight years. And so, every day you write down three things you're grateful for, three things that went great. So, that for me, it wasn't called gains, of course, but that's what I was doing. And it's helpful. It's so helpful. It's helpful also to scroll back and look and go, “Oh, yeah, wow. Like, look at all the amazing experiences I've had.” And the most amazing experience were like me playing T-ball in the backyard with my son, getting my daughter ready for the school dance the other night, right? Like these are the most meaningful, special experiences, and they're not monumental in terms of like huge goals and ambitious achievements. You know what I mean? They're just everyday blessings that we often take for granted because we're in the gap and not in the gain.
I want to ask you a question right now. I'm going to put you on the spot. It might be a tough one. Don't feel like you have to rush to the answer. So, I'm asking you this because this is actually very personal for me being a little vulnerable here but you mentioned that being in the gap is when you measure yourself against an ideal. And so, the solution of being in the gain is measure your progress based on where you were to where you are now, right, anything you've overcome or how you've gotten better, what you've learned, etcetera. So, my question is what if you were better in the past and you're struggling with that now? And I'm just going to be completely open kimono about this. Before cancer, my brain functioned a certain way. I could think and process information very quickly. I could be giving a speech and while I was giving the speech, I could be thinking 20 minutes ahead of what I was going to say and changing it on the fly and all this. I could write really well.
Ever since I went through chemotherapy and suffered the damage that it did to my brain, I really struggled. And this morning, my wife came in. She’s like, “How are you doing? You look stressed.” I said, “I've been working on this paragraph for two hours, sweetie. It's a paragraph. I'd be 10 pages in right now.” And so, I really struggled with actually going to the past in that regard. My mental capability, which is so crucial to everything we do, it has declined. And so, how do you deal with that if you were in a good place? Before you answer it, I'm going to draw the question a little more. For anybody listening, like if our economy crashes again, which I think at some point the economy is showing some signs right now. So, there may be people that are listening to this and they're like, “Yeah, I was better off financially last year, and now I'm struggling.” So, whether it's relationally, mentally, emotionally, physically, financially, whatever area somebody looks back in the past, actually, was better in some ways and now they're struggling because they don't see progress, they see decline, how do you deal with that? How do you apply the gap and the gain?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: I mean, that’s beautiful. I think a lot of it has to do with how you're measuring things. So, like I'll give a few different examples, and certainly this can be a difficulty, especially for people who are very successful in the past and they don't feel like they're successful anymore. And so, they actually have a negative view of their past because they feel like they've gone backwards compared to their past self so they’re kind of wishing they could go back to who they were before. Certainly, like I even relate with that, man. Like, it was a lot easier for me to blog back in like my Medium days like I was a lot more prolific. It was a lot easier. I feel like there are certainly things that I was better at in the past. But in a lot of ways, it's about what you're valuing, what you're defining as value. I can guarantee you that like you are further along in various aspects than your past self, like you maybe have developed empathy or perspectives that your past self didn't have. You're certainly probably more evolved as a person than your past self was.
I mean, even before this conversation, we were talking about your views of your book that you're getting ready to rerelease and you can see the gains in how you look at your old work, The Miracle Morning, like you look back at that book and you see a different person who wrote that book versus the person you are now. And so, you can actually see gains. You as a human being are definitely past your former selves. Maybe there are aspects where things aren't far along but the question is like have you gone forward? What are the ways you've gone forward? What are the ways you've made gains? And maybe finding better measurements of success, maybe financially you're not as far as you were before but can you learn from the last year? Can you use that? Are you more informed than you were before? Because usually, qualitative change occurs prior to quantitative change or as Stephen Covey would say usually, private victories precede public victories. And so, like, if I lose all my money in the bank, right, or if I start a company and I flush it all down the toilet, and even in the book I talk about, I flushed lots of money down the toilet in really bad investments, right?
And so, from a financial standpoint, I went backwards. But the question is, as a person, did I go forward? Did I turn that into post-traumatic growth? Am I more informed than my former self? If so, then those are qualitative changes which may not be reflected externally but they will be. And so, I think it depends on how you measure yourself, and sometimes it's helpful to not use old metrics to measure yourself nowadays. There are probably higher metrics or higher definitions of success than what was in the past. I would say your current self, even if you only write one paragraph, is writing a paragraph your past self could have never even conceived. Like, that one paragraph that your current self could write, yeah, maybe your past life could have written a lot faster but there's no way your past self could have written this paragraph. They didn't have the perspective. They didn't know what you know. And so, from my standpoint, we're always beyond our former self.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. I really appreciate that and thanks for the therapy session here, a little bonus. But, yeah, I have written and journaling, I've written like my level of consciousness is beyond words ever been before, evolving in certain ways. So, that's a great point that there are so many ways to measure progress. My cognitive abilities, yeah, in some ways they might regress but I thought about this too. ‘Tis with age. Like, what human being doesn't as they get older your body doesn't perform the way it did when you were younger? It's so funny. I have a rim in my backyard. I used to jump at 10 feet, hang on the rim, no problem. Now, I look at that and I'm like, “I'm going to jump and hang on it,” and I'm like four feet under. I'm like, what? At 42, I can't jump quite like I did. I think a part of that is acceptance, too. As I was listening to you, I realized that, well, this is a big part of what I teach, which is you have to accept life as it is and some things are going to be better. Some things are maybe not going to be as good, right? But life as a whole is whatever meaning you give to it. It's whatever perspective you choose. It's however you see it.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: I mean, I would also say, just looking at your life now as a whole, rather than slicing it in like how fast you write, I'm pretty sure, I could be wrong, that current Hal is probably a lot further along holistically than former Hal. Whether it's three years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago, the fastest writer version of you, the most cognitively genius and fast like if you were to measure your current life and look at your current life versus your former self’s life, I would argue you're probably enormously further along. You’re handling complexities that your former self could not have even imagined. You’re living dreams that your former self probably wasn't even dreaming. And so, it's really easy to look back at narrow slices of our past self and measure ourselves against that and then turn it into an ideal where we then throw ourselves into the gap where it's like, if you just look at yourself holistically. You're so far beyond anything your past self was ever even doing or thinking.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. Thank you for that. And it's interesting, yeah, you're right like if someone, for example, have a friend going through a divorce and you mentioned when you're in the gap, you get tunnel vision. All he sees is the divorce that he's going through and his life feels like it's falling apart. But whoa, whoa, whoa, you've got this great business you've grown and you're impacting a lot of people's lives and you're healthy. So, I mean, it is interesting. I think that you made such a good point that we have to have a broader perspective when we're looking at ourselves in our life and not just get that tunnel vision of, “Oh, but this one area is bad. So, therefore, my life is bad.” I think that's how we equate things like, “Oh, finances are tough right now so my life's bad,” versus, "Finances are tough but my life's amazing. This area sucks but overall, my life is amazing. Who I am at a soul level, at a spiritual level, at a consciousness level is limitless. So, why would I allow these one or two things in my life to define my quality of life?”
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Yeah. I also think with this friend of yours going through the divorce like at some point or another, hopefully, this person can recognize that this is a gain. And you also own that you're beyond your former self. Maybe you recognize that your former self contributed to that divorce but you now know better and rather than living in the past and wishing things were different, right, which is the epitome of the gap. You're wishing things were different. You're wishing things were as you ideally want them to be. You actually go really into the gain about it and you realize that this was the best thing that probably could have happened to you to help you evolve out of the former self that created the divorce in the first place or that was part of that situation. You know, and so post-traumatic growth really is and really the gain is when you take any past event and you realize that you've gained from that event. You are further along than your past self was. And that's really when you know you've healed from a trauma is that you're grateful it happened, you're glad it happened, and you see a lot of value in that occurrence that you've gotten value, you've learned from that, you've grown from that, you're better, not bitter. It happened for you, not to you, right?
And so, that friend, I'm not shrinking the pain of it or the disheartenment. Life gives us plenty of things, painful experiences or disappointments, but we really get used from those experiences once we turn them into gains, once we actually turn it into learning or lessons or growth or meaning and then we start to get to a place of gratitude where we actually value our experiences. Back to the idea, your judgment of your experience matters more than even the event itself. That's really what the past is. The past is just a meaning. And so, if you choose to give it a positive meaning and a grateful meaning and you've got a lot of value out of it, then you're like, “I'm not at a loss because of the divorce. I'm actually at a massive gain and I'm grateful for my life. I'm grateful for my ex-wife. I'm grateful for all of the experiences that happened through that marriage.” And being in the gain allows you to constantly be moving forward no matter what happens.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. For anybody listening, I want you to think about that. This is really a superpower. This is a superpower to be aware of the gap, aware of the gain, and then consciously choose that which best serves you. And it's a universal superpower that's available to all of us. And it doesn't matter what your circumstances are. And here's the thing. Life's going to throw challenges our way no matter what but you can either use this superpower of being in the gain where the challenges serve you, they fuel you, you become stronger or in the gap where they defeat you, they hurt you, they discourage you, right? Either way, life is what it is but you have access to that superpower. Ben, anything left to share on this? And then where can people get the book? Where can they find you?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Absolutely. Just always, Hal, I really think you're an amazing person. You know what I mean? Obviously, my judgment of you matters a lot less than your judgment of you but I…
Hal Elrod: I feel the same way so it's good.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Yeah, good. I always enjoy talking to you. What would be the last words about The Gap and The Gain? I really do agree with you that I think this is a superpower. It really does allow you to, no matter what happens, be better as a result, not bitter. It really is the most simple framework that I've come across for framing and reframing, right? And just recognizing when you're in the gap and you can actually start to see it everywhere. You can use the language. Language is really powerful and so I just think if you hear someone complaining about anything, you know that they're in the gap because they're complaining about something and wishing it was different, right? They're speaking negativity into existence. And so, you'll start to see the gap of it. I would just encourage, for those who are nearby you, give them this framework and then call you out. I let my kids call me out when I'm in the gap. Like, I go in the gap regularly, all the time, like where I get frustrated, I get upset. And the goal is not that you never go into the gap. That's perfectionism. That's being in the gap about yourself.
The goal is just to recognize it as it's occurring or as quickly as possible and then getting yourself back into the gain, recognizing that you are moving forward, not devaluing your experience, not devaluing your current position, and also then turning your experience into gains. And just the sooner you get into the gain, the sooner you can move forward and that progress can't really occur while you're still in the gap about something because you're still kind of avoiding it and wishing it was different rather than just facing it and turning it into something useful. So, yeah, as far as where you can get the book, here's a copy. You can get it on Amazon, you can get it on Kindle, you can get on audio. One thing I will say about the audiobook, which makes it unique, is that I actually did record the audiobook but in between each chapter, I interviewed Dan Sullivan and we go really deep on each chapter where we kind of podcast-style go back and forth. And Dan, obviously being like 78 years old, being the coach of high-level entrepreneurs for 45 years, has some really unique perspectives. And so, if you kind of want like two extra hours of perspective, especially from Dan Sullivan, the guy who originated this idea like 25 years ago, check out the audiobook.
Hal Elrod: Wow. Dan is brilliant. You guys are a match made in heaven, man. His wisdom and expertise, your youth and cognitive abilities, I mean, he's pretty cognitively sharp but your writing prowess combining with what he's accomplished and created over the last 40 plus years is just incredible, or 78 plus years I guess. So, yeah, man, congrats on another book, on one that really I believe is a must-read for people. I think it is a superpower that the book delivers to people. So, Ben, I love you too, brother. Thank you for another conversation, and I know you got another book coming out soon so maybe this will be a regular occurrence. Now, we'll talk. We'll have our fourth time together maybe in the next year.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: It would be amazing, man. Well, thanks again for letting me be here and cheers to everyone who's listening. I invite you to get your life into the gain because it's a lot funner to gain your way through life rather than kind of feel like you're always in the gap.
Hal Elrod: Well said, brother.
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