We have been told many a time that in order to rise to the top, we might want to be jerks. There is no data to support this theory, however. People do rise to the top not because they were jerks but, despite being jerks. Even then it’s not worth it because we have spent our days being jerks while we could have practiced being better people.
Lately, I have been seeing a rise in an interest in the area of cognitive psychology. Organizations want to know how our brain works so they could develop products and services to steal more of our time, energy, and attention. Case in point is the social media platforms such as Facebook.
In that context, who is an intelligent person? It is someone who knows the loopholes of his intelligence.
Many of us have a daily routine to optimize our time and energy to make the most out of our days. However, having a daily routine can have drawbacks if we are not conscious of it.
With a newborn at home, my daily routine has turned upside down in the last few weeks and this made me wonder about the topic even more. Instead of having a daily routine, a better strategy would be to have daily “routines”. When things go wrong, we have an alternate routine to fall back into and it can keep us sane. This way, instead of our routine owning us we can own our routine. This also makes us more conscious of our day-to-day activities instead of doing things in an autopilot mode. We will hence be able to handle change in a better manner.
Discipline is a form of freedom, but left unchecked becomes a form of tyranny.
I came across this brilliant quote on Seth Godin’s blog on how to do better work over and over again and it actually made sense to me. “Relentlessly give credit, and take more responsibility.” The reason this works is that when we take more responsibility we are embracing blame when something doesn’t work and giving credit to someone else when it works. When we give credit to someone else over and over again, that person would come back to us to do more of that thing that worked. It’s the work that matters and the fact that we are getting to do more great work is what matters more than getting the credit for the work we have done. Enjoy the doing part without inflating our egos.
It’s a new year, and I am sure many of us would have already made our goals and resolutions for the coming year. While we assume goal-setting is right, it has its downsides too.
Whatever goals you arrive at, they are all in some way within the limitations of what you already know, or maybe a little exaggerated versions thereof. Is it not tragic to spend a whole year trying to achieve what you already know? My intention is things that you do not know should happen to you. Things that you have never imagined should enter your life. Only then will your life be truly enriched. What is the point of only doing things that you already know?
There was a time when you could be happy with one dollar. Now for the same happiness, you need a million dollars. That’s called inflation. That’s not enhancement of life. All that you do with life is create inflation. Inflation is neither good for the economy nor for your life. Now you are consciously causing inflation in your life – that is not an intelligent way to go about it. By setting time-bound goals, you may achieve a few things, but it will be of no consequence to the life that you are.
This is no different from how the caveman was, how hunters and gatherers were – “gather as much as you can.” On a material level, it looks different, but fundamentally, it is the same rudimentary thought of accumulating things. Anything that you gather, whether it is your knowledge, your wealth, your relationships, or whatever else, is only of value for the current transactions. If you keep it active, it will facilitate a few things for you. It has social consequence, but it has no life consequence. Instead of setting goals, it is best you find ways to nourish this life that you are. If you are nourishing this life, you only have to measure the growth.
Whatever goals we may set, on some level they are within the limitations of or exaggerated versions of what we already know. To get from where we are to where our goals are, we create tension, and it merely causes an inflation of existing things. The unwanted increase of current things can limit us from experiencing new things in life.
To simply live here goal-less is what a spiritual process is about. That does not mean being lethargic and lax. A spiritual process means to live in intense involvement with what is there right now but with no goal. If you have the courage to sit here in such a way – “Wherever the hell it goes tomorrow is fine with me, but right now I will do my best in whatever I am doing,” you will naturally be spiritual.
Life works best when we throw ourselves into doing things with absolute involvement without bothering what we gain out of it. Goal-setting ruins this element of life as it merely shows the means to an end. We must consider things as an end in itself by being more process-oriented and less goal-oriented.
Instead of setting goals for the whole year, just set this one thing: By the end of the day, you must be a little more joyful, a little more enhanced, a little better. This will not work as a goal – it is better to look at it in retrospect. This is not about you being joyful or peaceful. This is about you being conscious of as many aspects of your life as possible. You will do your best about whatever you are conscious of. Most of the nonsense happens because you are unconscious about so many things.
The real key to effective goal setting lies in developing a vision of how we want our lives to be. If we would tell ourselves, “My only goal is to live a happier, healthier, more joyful and more loving life” – and actually mean it – we’d find that realizing this goal is as simple as making it the defining vision that guides our lives. We would no longer need to concern ourselves with incremental, New Year’s Resolution style goals that don’t address our true character. Instead, we would see our lives naturally moving towards the direction of our visions.
If you’re currently struggling to build your life around the tiny, fractious goals you believe will make you a better person in some way, just stop. Stop worrying about whether or not the future you want is attainable based on where you are today and instead, set a clear vision for what you’d like your life to be.
That said, here’s another perspective on goal-setting.
Having goals is a pain in the neck.
If you don’t have a goal (a corporate goal, a market share goal, a personal career goal, an athletic goal…) then you can just do your best. You can take what comes. You can reprioritize on a regular basis. If you don’t have a goal, you never have to worry about missing it. If you don’t have a goal you don’t need nearly as many excuses, either.
Not having a goal lets you make a ruckus, or have more fun, or spend time doing what matters right now, which is, after all, the moment in which you are living.
The thing about goals is that living without them is a lot more fun, in the short run.
It seems to me, though, that the people who get things done, who lead, who grow and who make an impact… those people have goals.
When we are asked to focus on something, we consider focus as an act in itself. That’s why we find it so hard to concentrate on something for a long time. Our social media and smartphone indulgence aren’t helping us either.
But, here is a better strategy to practice concentration – getting involved. When we are not involved and passively engaged in something we find it hard to concentrate for a long time. However, involvement can make this much easier.
Just like how our actions are a consequence of expression of ourselves and our joy, the focus is a consequence of our involvement.
More often than not we keep hearing that “trust your instincts.” While that works sometimes, what is important here is to make our instincts or guts smarter. Then, it makes sense to trust our instincts. So, how can we do this?
The more we practice something, the better we become at doing that thing. Similarly, we need to practice listening to our instincts often enough, so it gets smarter over time. Here are some ways to making our guts brighter:
- Practicing in private making a judgment call on something. Blogs are a great way to do this. They are also, free.
- Volunteering for a non-profit is another excellent way to do practice making judgments. It’s extremely low risk.
- Finding out a peer group to sharing and talking through your instincts so that they are no longer your instincts.