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[youtube] This is an awesome little movie. If you have 15 minutes, it's really worth watching end to end. It covers a topic that has been near and dear to my heart this year as I've spent the past 11 months now working on releasing the shackles of external validation.

How am I doing with that? Well, 11 months doesn't undo nearly 35 years of living for it...I still have a long way to go. And my participation online - blogging, tweeting, flickr-ing, etc. - makes for feeding the external validation junky in me. And really, it does feel good to get a nice comment or an email from someone saying that you've said something poignant to her or that you give him hope. It feels great...even when we brush it off with an 'aw shucks'. And, of course, the feedback helps let us know we are doing something right in the world and to keep it up or step it up. But there is a downside to it, too. When I started to rely too much on the external validation to shape the way I felt about myself and what I was doing, I became way to susceptible to the ebbs and flows as well as the negative feedback that came my way. My moods were controlled by external forces. Not a great thing.

It was also the downfall of many of my relationships. I got to the point that, if I wasn't getting the feedback I needed, I would demand it. Then, of course when I got the validation, it felt empty. I had asked for it. Was it real? I was a mess.

Not to be too poetic about it, but I really do think we'd all be happier if we relied less on external validation. The movie is feel good and cute, but there is an underlying message. Hugh, the main character, gives others the validation they need, and, in return, he gets validated with making them smile. When he encounters Victoria, who won't smile, it drastically affects him and his ability to function. Meanwhile, Victoria's ability to feel good is affected by another outside source. It's kind of a metaphor for the way we live in America and I see this all the time. People around me are constantly waiting for something or somebody outside themselves to change their moods. Much of it is consumed. It makes me happy for a couple of hours or even days when something remarkable happens or I get a compliment or I buy a lovely new Coach bag (my 'junk'), but then I go back to my set-point again.

All of this rambling, of course, reminds me of the idea of Happiness as Your Business Model, where three out of the four pillars to happiness rely at least somewhat on extrinsic signals: autonomy, competence and relatedness. Autonomy relies on the fact that outside forces aren't controlling you (if they are, you are miserable). Competence relies on whatever you are challenged with to be just the right level of challenging and do-able. And relatedness relies strongly on the presence of others. (the fourth being your set-point or natural level of self-esteem)

I think my ultimate goal in life is to achieve a level of autonomy from the external validation, itself. I'd love to get to that place where compliments are good signals that I'm going in a positive direction and critiques are just points to ponder for improving my performance, but neither have much of an affect on my disposition.

Either way, I wanted to share the movie and see if it provided food for thought on the cult of external validation that we are part of. People in this movie are, in a sense, buying it. Where do you buy it? Is it something you think about? Do you think people would be naturally happier without relying on it? Does this affect consumerism? Marketing? Food for thought...