Tagged: Goals

Choice paralysis (why it’s so hard to really decide what to do with our lives)

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?

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The meaning of life….

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.

Overachiever

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.

How to save a life

There are at least two different ways you can save a life. The first is the obvious one where you save someone from physically dying. When you prevent someone from dying you postpone the inevitable. You give the person extra time, which is the stuff life is made of.

The second way to save a life isn’t so much about giving the person extra time, but about making sure the person gets the most out of the time he or she has. A 90 year old can still have wasted away his or her life by spending it doing things he or she wasn’t passionate about.

So how do you save someone (including yourself) from wasting his or her life away? You can save someone’s life by helping him or her find a purpose, a life goal, and the courage to pursue it.

In order to be able to save the lives of others you first have to save yours. Find your calling, do something meaningful and fulfilling with your life. By chasing your dreams you lead by example, nudging others to follow your lead. This is the great thing; you don’t have to sacrifice your own dreams and happiness in order to help others.  You just make sure you get the most out of your life (which is already one life saved plus it will benefit others as well) and give the people around you advise when they ask for it.

Actually, it would not make sense to sacrifice your own well being for the sake of others. Be the change you want to see in the world as Gandhi said. Imagine what would happen if everyone would follow your example. If everyone would sacrifice their own dreams and ambitions for the sake of others the world would be a dark and depressing place.

If instead people would start pursuing their dreams and cheering each other on a different picture would appear. People would constantly push themselves to grow in order to achieve their goals and motivate others to do the same. Constantly learning new things and gaining a better understanding of the world around them and themselves. I’m well aware this is an utopian picture but you can influence your environment to come close to this by being picky who you spend your the majority of your time with adhering to the rule of five.

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. Getting the most out of your short time here on earth requires hard work and you’ll have to overcome many challenges. However, every time you overcome a challenge you become stronger and get closer to your goals and life is going to be full of challenges anyway. In the meanwhile you’re setting a great example for the people around you.

So set your goals high and realize your dreams. It might not be easy but it is well worth it.

On Choices

A choice is not made until acted upon. It’s one thing to decide to climb a mountain but another thing to actually prepare for it and do it. The real choices you make are your actions, whether you are aware of it or not. If you decide to chase a certain goal but end up never taking the appropriate steps to achieve it or give up along the way you have chosen through your actions not to pursue the goal.

Not choosing is a choice in itself. When you don’t consciously make a choice someone or something else will. Of course you are free to decide to let others or the circumstances make the choices for you and see where it gets you. However, when you do so, it doesn’t excuse you from the responsibility over your live. If you choose to let other people and circumstances make the choices for you, you have to accept the consequences of this. You can’t blame others or the circumstances if things don’t end up like you wanted. It was your choice not to take control in the first place. In order to really be free to shape our destiny you first need to commit to making your own choices. This means accepting full responsibility for your choices, both those you made and failed to make.

You are responsible for everything you do and what happens to you simply because you have to live with the consequences. Even when something out of your control happens to you and gets in the way of your plans you are the one responsible for dealing with it. This because it is your life and the unexpected obstacle towards reaching your goals affects you. You can ask for help but you still need to take the initiative.

On boredom and frustration

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.

For the greater good

Chasing your dreams and goals isn’t just beneficial for you as an individual. Not chasing your dreams can have a bad side effect on society, even the clearly selfish ones like wanting to become rich. Let’s take a quick look at the downsides to society of you not becoming a multimillionaire.

Forget about your own interest. If you don’t study and try hard to become a multimillionaire the obvious downside is you not being able to enjoy that money and donate loads to your favorite charities, but what are you denying society by doing so?

  • Tax money that could be spent on social welfare and education.

If you want to keep a few million euros of your labor to yourself you’ll need to make a whole lot more because of all the taxes you pay along the way. Tax rates differ but you can roughly assume that for every million you don’t make the tax office misses out on one million as well.

  • Benefit to the economy:

In order to make those millions legally you need to create value to society. You need to offer some kind of solution that people are willing to pay money for. Not pursuing those millions also implies not creating that value. Then there are all the jobs you didn’t create, not only directly employed by you but indirectly through your suppliers etc.

So here you have it. The government is missing out on tax money that could be used for the benefit of your fellow citizens and society misses out on the value you could have created. This doesn’t imply we should all try to become millionaires of course, but we should not feel bad about it either if we want to do so.  This is just an example how even chasing obviously self-centered goals can be beneficial for others as well.

When we solve the problems that stand in the way between us and our dreams, we do not only do ourselves a favor. The problems you face are often the same problems that others face. The solutions you’ve found will be useful for them too. The world benefits from the fruits of your undertaking. When you set out to achieve greatness the world can feast off the products of your labor in the form of the books you wrote, music you created, lessons you’ve learned or the inventions you introduced. It’s a win-win situation. Both you and society benefit.

By staying small and forfeiting your dreams you aren’t doing anyone a favor. You are only setting a bad example and robbing yourself of an interesting worthwhile life.