Before you can find the most effective way to achieve something you first need to clearly define what it is you are really after. Putting in effort to find more efficient ways to do your tasks can end up being counterproductive if you fail to take this step.
For example; If you are doing some cleaning at work, finding a more efficient way to clean the place so you can go home earlier might work counterproductive if you get paid by the hour. This because it either leads to more work being expected or you making less money for the same work.
Especially if you clean for a living, the real purpose of cleaning at work is to make the money so you can pay the rent. Once you realize this, you could either decide to look for a higher paid job or start offering cleaning services as a freelancer based per cleaning session instead of per hour. In this case you employing more efficient cleaning methods will enable you to get to your desirable endpoint more effectively (making the money to pay the rent in less time).
It’s good to have options and be able to choose. However, when we are presented with too much options all at once we often end up with choice paralysis leading us to not making a choice at all (which is a choice itself). Since it’s up to us to decide what we make of our lives we can face the same issue when trying to come up with an answer to the most important question in our lives. What is it I’m going to do with my life?
At least you don’t have to worry about missing out on the thing you were supposed to be doing since there is no such thing. This doesn’t make it easier. Every time we decide to do one thing it means we are not doing a million other possible things. Economist refer to these options we have to miss out on as alternative costs. These alternative costs playing in the back in our mind can be the cause of the choice paralysis many of us experience when we can’t decide what it is we really want to do with our lives.
It’s not hard to come up with dozens if not hundreds of things you could do with your life. Even if you limit yourself to goals that are realistic in a reasonable short time span, with your current skills and knowledge, it can still be a daunting task to decide what to do. And with deciding I don’t mean just saying to yourself that you want to accomplish something, but actually taking action to achieve that which you intent to do (more on this here).
The feeling of existential angst that occurs when we suddenly realize that there is no predefined reason for us to be here may very well be a manifestation of choice paralysis. Once we realize there is nothing we have to do, except dealing with the consequences of our actions, we also realize there isn’t one right answer to the question of what we are supposed to do. This takes away the possibility of finding the one “right” answer, something we are destined to do, there is no such thing. So now there isn’t just one right answer, instead there are an infinite number of answers and we have to decide which ones to go for. This can be a daunting task which explains why so many people go through life settling for a mediocre path of choices they more or less stumbled into. In the face of a limitless amount of options they froze and ended up going for the default option.
However, finding an answer to the question about our reasons to exist is important in order to live a meaningful fulfilling life. Giving up on it because it’s a difficult question is not a very appealing option. As long as we don’t decide what we want to do with our lives we are just wondering about aimlessly, waiting for the time to pass until we die. So what can we do about this?
In the end it’s about finding something that excites you and just going for it. It can help to start with setting smaller goals if you are still fuzzy about what big dreams you want to realize. The important thing is to actually take action and do something. And if you do have a big dream, do yourself a favor and give it your all.
I’m not saying it’s easy to decide what you want to do with your life, far from it, no matter how smart you are. Being smart can even work against you since it opens up even more possibilities. Nonetheless we’ll have to keep looking for an answer. It’s not about having to do anything, it’s about wanting to do certain things. It’s your life, are you going to settle for the default settings or are you making something worthwhile of it?
Life is intrinsically pointless since meaning is something we assign to things; like a task is only meaningful when it serves a desirable goal. Not just any goal, the intention to achieve it has to be present in order to make it worthwhile. Intention is the key to meaning.
Since meaning is something we assign to things through intention, a meaningful life is one intentionally lived. This doesn’t mean having complete control over it, this is impossible since life is unpredictable and the majority of forces influencing your life are out of your control. However it does mean acting intentionally, setting goals to strive towards, and taking steps to achieve them. Roadblocks will always show up, if you are living intentionally you respond by finding other roads and picking yourself up when you trip and fall. It means consciously deciding what you want to do with your life, not just reacting to whatever happens to you.
Our actions define us. And, as I pointed out earlier, our actions are our real choices. In the end it’s not about what happened to us but how we reacted to it. What defines us, and how meaningful our life was, is how we decided to live it by the actions we took.
The concept of an overachiever is ridiculous; it’s a term used by people who clearly feel insecure about their own level of achievement. They vent their envy by stigmatizing the people who are actually doing what they should be doing, making the most out of their lives. This is not only unproductive for the people who utter this nonsensensical word to describe others but effectively helps to create a curse of mediocrity. This leads to people living lives of quiet desperation, afraid to go after their dreams because they are afraid of what other people will think of them.
When individuals push themselves to grow and achieve their goals, society thrives as a result. If people try to avoid standing out innovation and progress will cripple, making everyone worse off.
The people who go out and do something great are the ones who show us what’s possible. They push humanity forward. We should encourage this more instead of trying to bring them down to our level just so that we don’t have to feel insecure about our own lives and accomplishments. Instead of feeling envious we should use them as examples to motivate ourselves to step up our game. This goes for those around us as well, think twice before laughing at someone’s crazy big dreams, you might end up being one of the causes of them giving up on it, taking away a potentially wonderful achievement as well as an interesting worthwhile journey towards trying to achieve it, regardless whether they achieve it or not.
The more individuals thrive the better society is off. Society benefits from the fruits of the labor of those who do great things. The music, art, books or movies they produce, the example they are setting. Why not try to become one of those as well? Instead of just being around in the world try to add to it in your unique way?
And don’t hold back. There is no point in worrying about making other people feel bad about not making the most out of their lives by excelling at something you are passionate about (without purposely rubbing it in their face of course) or by actively working towards realizing your bigger goals and improving yourself to increase the chance of you succeeding in that. It can serve as a wake up call too those around you. Yes, you could end up making them look bad in comparison, but so what? It might inspire them to take action. The reason they feel bad is because you showed them what was possible, taking away their excuse. Once they get over themselves for not having seriously tried all this time they might actually get themselves together and follow your example.
Since we only have one life we should try to avoid reckless behavior; if something goes horribly wrong we will have to live with the consequences for the rest of our life. However, we should not play it too safe either. One thing crueler than a fully lived life cut short is a long dreadful one that is wasted away because the person is playing it too safe. We have to find the balance between recklessness and cowardice.
Calculated risk is the key. Yes we can jump out of airplanes and snowboard down mountains, but we should be prepared when we do so. Before we hit the big slopes we need to practice going down little hills and the first time we jump out of an airplane we jump in tandem with an experienced parachutist. There is always some risk involved but that’s just part of life. However, to go down the biggest mountain you can find the first time you ever stand on a snowboard is just plain recklessness.
Life can been seen as a game where you are thrown into existence at a random time in a random place where the only objective is to survive and to explore the world. It has both a start and an end. What you do in between is up to you.
Games (including life) are unpleasant when you suck at it. You keep trying but you just can’t seem to do what you want. If this is the case you just need to become better at it. Study and practice more. Games get boring when you get too good at them and the challenge is gone. When this happens set your goals higher.
During our lifetime we fluctuate between these states of frustration and boredom. That’s just life. We get bored so we set higher goals. These higher goals require us to push ourselves which causes frustration of not being able to do it, followed by the sense of accomplishment when we finally master the required skills. After that we get so good at it that we get bored again so we set the next goal even higher. Life is one big progression; it just keeps going until you die. There is no point of final destination. It’s about the journey; you never arrive at a true end point. If you would there would be no point in continuing to live.
Being intelligent is not the same as being smart. Intelligence refers to your capability to process concepts and information. Being intelligent helps with being smart since you learn more quickly. However, just having a good set of brains doesn’t say much about the content. We need to put in the effort to acquire the knowledge and fill our minds.Someone could have an IQ of 130 but not know much about the world at all. In this case the person might be intelligent but not very smart (yet).
Just as being intelligent doesn’t necessarily means we are smart, being smart doesn’t imply being wise. Being smart is about knowing how things work and understanding how things relate. It’s also about knowing what you should do in a given situation. Wisdom is about doing what you should be doing. It’s about acting on the knowledge. Being smart is required to be wise but it isn’t enough. Just because you know what you should be doing does not imply you do that by default.
Just like we have to put in the effort to get smarter, so we need to put in the effort to act on our knowledge in order to become wiser. It’s often not easy. We usually know pretty well what we should be doing. However, acting on it is usually quite hard. Things like fear or peer pressure often lead us to act against our better judgement, sabotaging our dreams in the process.
It’s the ability to act per default on that what you know you should be doing that makes the difference between those who seem to achieve whatever they set their minds to and the rest who just get by.
Being intelligent and smart can even work against us in our quest to become wiser. I don’t mean we should avoid getting smarter of course, we first need to know enough to realize what we should be doing before we can act on it. But, as a clever person you are also better at coming up with logically sounding excuses not to do things.
This is where the effort comes into play. We need to make sure not to fool ourselves. We should be aware of our line of thinking and how we act. In the end it is us who benefit from acting more wisely and us who suffer the consequences when we don’t. In order to become effective at achieving the goals we’ve set for ourselves, to be able to realize our dreams, we need to become wiser. This will require being a bit harsh on ourselves from time to time as well as overcoming some of our fears. This isn’t always pleasant in the moment but discomfort is not something we should avoid at the cost of sacrificing our dreams.