For the past three years I have been working hard to find answers to the following three questions:
- What is the meaning of life?
- What is my purpose and how can I be happy?
- How can I achieve my goals? (This is in case I find the answers to the first two questions.)
I want to make you happy, I found the answers to them. Initially I thought I would just write the answers for myself in order to structure my thoughts, but I realized that I am not the only one who is concerned with this topic, and I can help someone get rid of this truly exhausting and complicated search for answers to such important questions.
I have read a large number of books and watched as many videos on these topics, from “THE MEGAMOTIVE SECRETS OF SUCCESS” to the real works of various scientists. Everything I’m going to tell you about is quite scientific and can claim to be close to the truth.
Well, I will be glad to receive your comments on the subject. Let’s go!
The Meaning of Life
Let’s start with the best part. I puzzled over this for three years, and it got to the point where I just didn’t want to do anything, because I saw no point in doing anything. And for what? For the endless continuation of the species? What for? The closest thing to reality that can be said about our meaning of life (as humans) on Earth, about our ultimate goal, is that there is NO, there isn’t. But what is there to do??? In fact, there is one meaning after all. The ONLY thing we care about and need is joy. Joy comes in all varieties: intellectual, carnal, spiritual, material, etc.
But why aren’t many people happy anyway? We choose (usually not very consciously) various surrogates of pleasure-computer games, drugs, alcohol, etc. In the next chapter, I’m going to talk about purpose or calling (whatever you want), and then we’ll talk about what makes us REALLY happy.
Purpose and Happiness
So, let’s start with the obsession with purpose, vocation, life’s goal, whatever you want to call it.
The idea that you can find your vocation and follow it, forgetting about everything else, sits tightly in our heads. Everything will fall into place and I will be infinitely happier forever when I find my calling, and if I don’t, that’s it, I’ve lost, the end. When I figure out what I want, only then will real life begin. Familiar thoughts? They only scare us, make us feel overwhelming stress and pressure. Behind these thoughts are actually the following statements: “I want a vocation, which will bring a huge stable income to the end of my days, it will be easy for me to follow it, but also it should not take up much time” etc. I think you have already understood the meaninglessness of such thoughts, so let’s move on.
In the search for a vocation, we make fatal mistakes:
- We look for our vocation based on passion, interest, and I have to tell you, these are the most unstable emotions, they can change in a week, if not in a day. You can’t use interest as a yardstick.
- We’re sure we’re choosing the wrong thing, wasting our time, when in fact we’re wasting our time thinking about purpose.
3- We put life on PAUSE until (we think) we know our purpose. We can’t do that. We can’t realize life before we’ve lived it. By looking for a calling in our heads, we actually miss the chance to find it.
- Searching for purpose while lying on the couch is a way to get away from responsibility. Don’t let your brain fool you.
- It’s impossible to figure out your own vocation. It’s actually very difficult to predict what we really want, ask different people, they could dream of one thing, but realized in a completely different, then again. People often do not have that, that here they are in childhood decided that they would be astronauts and flew to the moon, it happens with a maximum of one or two percent of people. We crazy overestimate our predictions: “I probably won’t like it, I’m not likely to be interested in it.” Believe me, only by trying it can we really know if we like something or not.
Mistakes are solved, but how do we find our calling?
- First of all, we should find out what kind of hobbies and occupations exist. How can we come to the right place, if it is not even on our map? We can open google and find whole lists of different professions, a very good way to put new necessary elements on our map.
- We should not forget that these days, every year there are a huge number of professions that are created by eclecticism. So if you have a lot of hobbies, think about how you can combine them. In addition, the more different professions (or hobbies) are combined into one, the more in-demand that professional is.
Be helpful, generous, kind. When your energy and efforts meet someone else’s needs, then you realize that you are not doing everything for nothing.
- Steve Jobs used to say that our efforts are never in vain, all the skills, all the experiences we acquire will one day come together to produce something great. So he created the raincoat, even though many of the things he did, that happened to him, seemed to lead in no way to the goal. Here’s what he says: “You can’t connect the dots (events) by looking forward; you can only do it by looking back in time. So you’re going to have to trust the dots that you somehow connect in the future. You’re going to have to rely on something: your character, destiny, life, karma – whatever. This approach has never failed me and it has changed my life.” I highly recommend watching his speech to Harvard graduates, it’s on youtube, this quote is from there. Looking back on my past, I can sign off on every word he said.
The most important point
It is necessary to use every opportunity, to accept any work, even if it seems that we can not do it, we must, just have to look for difficulties. But why? If you look at happy and successful people, you see that they all, consciously or not, do it? Why? Because they know that opportunities (difficulties, work) will be followed by something truly wonderful, a reward that will more than pay for all the effort. But we only pretend to wait for opportunities, and when they come, we’re not at all ready, because we think they must come in the form of unicorns riding a pony. Learning to enjoy the challenges makes life much more enjoyable, easier, and more interesting for us. Believe me, it’s worth it.
Winston Churchill: “Every good opportunity comes to us in overalls and with a shovel in hand.”
This quote captures the essence of my rant, it’s genius. It is worth writing down on paper and hanging on your forehead, though you will not see it that way, but it will give wisdom to other people. It is better to write it on your wall, or just remember it for life.
You just have to do something all the time and your vocation will find us. So you get a very important and necessary experience to know yourself, new emotions and a lot of other pleasant bonuses.
I’ll conclude with another quote that will help you stay on the right track. Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can with what you have, where you are.”
There are a couple of other little lifehacks to help you get to know yourself faster:
We’ve all been raised in families and told what we can and can’t do, and for years we’ve pushed our own desires to the back burner. We need to correct this little by little. Listen to yourself in every situation, whether you are tense or relaxed. The body is an indicator, it will also help. Listen to your emotions (what brings you more joy and what brings you less joy) and intuition. When offered a choice, you have to ask yourself: “What exactly do I want?” despite all sorts of conventions, even if that choice seems wrong. The main thing is to follow your own desire. Develop your own feelings.
So, it’s time to deal with happiness
Naturally, you can’t be happy with life and be happy EVERYWHERE, unless you’re crazy, everyone has moments of sorrow and sadness.
However, is it possible to be happy and satisfied with life almost all the time? How? I’ll give you the formula for happiness, write it down:
The Happiness Formula
Happiness = a cause that brings satisfaction to our basic needs + real, deep social connections.
Now let’s break down why the formula is this way.
The Harvard experiment
I think most have heard of it. In a nutshell, over the course of 75 years, scientists who wondered about happiness observed completely different people and came up with this:
The 4th leader of this experiment concluded:
“And what have we learned from the tens of thousands of pages of information accumulated over the years of research? The main lesson, imagine, has nothing to do with wealth, or fame, or hard, hard work. Seventy-five years of research make it clear that good relationships make us healthy and happy in the first place. And to summarize our research in one phrase, that’s it, we can call it a day.”
If you’re interested in the details, you can read about the Harvard experiment online, but I think you get the gist of it, and that’s the most important thing.
Satisfaction of needs
Let’s move on to the second component of happiness, the satisfaction of needs.
We have three basic needs (instincts) that need to be satisfied: the need for self-preservation, sexual need and social (hierarchical) need.
But nowadays in our society they have been transformed into something else, so that it turns out like this: the need for self-preservation is money, sexual need is (oddly enough) the need for admiration, and social (hierarchical) need is the need for power.
The problem is that now the need for money in principle is very easy to satisfy (you can work at the simplest job and somehow survive, or even do something illegal), the need for admiration we have perfectly satisfied with the help of social networks, and the need for power can be satisfied very simply – to declare that you are the most important in the world (you can even yourself), and no one can do anything about it.
Thus we live under the illusion that all our needs are satisfied, but this is far from it. We need to look to the future, to unfold it. For example, there may be nothing left of a simple job because of some crisis, and our instinct for self-preservation will already be severely shaken. About the power in our heads and admiration in social networks, I’m silent, they are just illusions of satisfaction.
You must not fall into this trap
Toward the end of the next chapter I detail why it is so important to look ahead.
So, a cause that truly satisfies our basic needs may very well help to improve our relationship with others.
The formula for happiness might look like this:
Happiness= social connections.
I’ve included business more as a tool for building good relationships in the formula.
About goal attainment and willpower
Is there a willpower by which we can achieve all of our goals?
To most people, ignoring the idea of willpower will seem like nonsense. I have seen a huge number of books and blogs suggest ways to “increase willpower,” such as “increasing willpower through meditation,” but new research has shown that some of the ideas behind these methods are inaccurate. Many people compare willpower to a muscle or a battery that can go bad by the end of the day if you load it up, which is also a myth.
The following is an insert from an article from www.habr.com. It talks about what willpower really is. I don’t want to retell it in my own words, since there is such a great text. After this insert, I will tell you what to do without “willpower,” and what principles of how our brains work can really help us achieve our goals. Read carefully, I’ll be right back.
“The roots of willpower and self-control grow from Western culture and stretch back to early Christianity, when theologians like Aurelius Augustine used the idea of free will to explain how sin could be compared to an all-powerful deity. Later, as philosophers began to turn away from religion, Enlightenment thinkers, especially David Hume, tried to reconcile free will with the prevailing idea of scientific determinism.
The concept of willpower did not emerge until the Victorian era, as described by Roy Baumeister, a psychology researcher at the time, in Willpower: Rediscovering Man’s Greatest Power [Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.] In the nineteenth century the decline of religion, population growth, and widespread poverty led to social tensions over whether the lower classes were obliged to maintain proper moral standards.
Self-control became an obsession of the Victorian era, promoted by such publications as the incredibly popular 1859 book Self-Help [Self-Help], which promoted the value of “selflessness” and relentless perseverance. The Victorians adopted the idea directly from the Industrial Revolution and described willpower as a tangible force, powering the engine of our self-control. Those who lacked willpower were despised. The earliest mention of the word, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is found in 1874 in connection with moralistic anxieties about certain substances: “Drunkards whose willpower and moral strength have been subdued by a degraded appetite.”
At the beginning of the twentieth century, as psychiatry sought to establish itself as a legitimate field with a scientific basis, Freud developed the idea of the “superego. The superego, or superego is the closest psychoanalytic cousin of willpower, representing the critical and moralizing part of consciousness internalized from parents and society. It is concerned with the basic functions of self-control–wasting mental energy in confrontation with the id (it)–but is also concerned with broader ethical and value judgments. Although Freud is often associated with a rejection of Victorian views, the super-ego represents a quasi-scientific extension of the Victorian ideal.
By mid-century, B.F. Skinner was suggesting the absence of intrinsic freedom to control behavior. Academic psychology followed the path of behaviorism, and the concept of free will was abandoned. Perhaps the history of willpower would have ended there, if not for several unexpected findings in the following decades, which revived interest in self-control.
In the 1960s, American psychologist Walter Michel decided to test how children cope with the delayed reward of temptation in the form of sweets in his famous “marshmallow experiment.” The young subjects were offered the choice between one yummy treat immediately, or two a little later. It wasn’t until many years later, when he heard stories about how some of his subjects were learning and working, that he decided to find them all and collect data on their achievements. He found that children who were able to resist temptation did better in school and passed tests . This spurred scholarly interest in the idea of “self-control,” a common term for willpower used in psychological research. This work paved the way for the modern definition of willpower, which is described in the media and in academia as the capacity for momentary self-control – the conscious suppression of sudden impulses and desires. Or, as members of the American Psychological Association described it in a recent report: “the ability to resist short-term temptations to achieve long-term goals. This possibility is described as a discrete and limited resource that can be exhausted, like some source of energy. The concept of a finite resource apparently emerged from Judeo-Christian notions of resisting sinful desires, and looks like a natural analogy to other physiological properties-such as strength, stamina, or breathing.
In the 1990s, psychologist Roy Baumeister conducted a key experiment to describe this possibility, which he called “ego exhaustion. Several students had to resist the urge to eat fresh chocolate chip cookies and ate radishes instead, while others were freely allowed to eat cookies. Students who performed poorly in the experiment then performed worse on other psychological tests, leading to the conclusion that they had exhausted some finite cognitive resource.The supporting effect of ego exhaustion has supposedly been replicated dozens of times, from which various well-selling books (including Baumeister’s own book, Willpower) and endless research programs have grown. But a 2015 meta-analysis, in which these studies were scrutinized along with other, previously unpublished works, found a very large bias in the works and very little evidence for the reality of the phenomenon of ego exhaustion.
Psychologists then conducted an international experiment on ego depletion, involving more than 2,100 subjects. Recent results do not support evidence of the reality of this phenomenon. It appears to be another casualty of the reproducibility crisis of psychological research.If ego depletion is disproven, it is surprising how firmly it has established itself in the mind before more careful research has dispelled the assumptions on which it rests. The story of its rise and fall shows how incorrect assumptions about the nature of willpower not only lead us the wrong way, but also hurt us. Related research shows that belief in willpower affects self-control. Subjects who believed in ego depletion (that willpower is a limited resource) showed a decrease in self-control over the course of the experiment, while those who did not believe in ego depletion held steady. Moreover, when subjects are subconsciously hinted at the possibility of ego depletion through hints in questionnaires, their results also become worse.The problem with the modern notion of willpower extends much further than ego depletion. The usual scientific simplifications associated with willpower are in jeopardy.
In an oft-cited 2011 paper, Kentaro Fujita urged psychologists to stop conceptualizing self-control as merely a costly suppression of impulses, and encouraged colleagues to think more broadly in terms of long-term motivation. For example, some behavioral economists believe that self-control should be seen not simply as the suppression of sudden desires, but as a process of “intrapersonal commerce”: the individual has a conflict of several decision-making systems. Another unnoticed aspect of self-control is emotion management, a field of science that has developed strongly over the past few decades. Since the early 1990s, the number of citations has increased fivefold every five years. This component of self-control has also been neglected in the view of willpower as a kind of muscle that dominates modern discourse. Intuitively, it should be clear that emotion is some component of willpower. Stopping yourself from yelling at an annoying relative is not the same as resisting the urge to drink. Emotional self-management is a complex function, and as we in the psychological field have long known, trying to manage your emotional state with brute force is doomed to failure. Instead, emotion management involves skills such as shifting attention (distraction), modulating the psychological response (deep breathing), being able to tolerate and wait out negative emotions, and changing beliefs.A paradigmatic example of changing beliefs is the phenomenon of “deferred discounting,” in which people tend to downplay future rewards in favor of smaller but immediate gains. If you offer a person $5 now or $10 in a month, many people illogically accept the instantaneous reward. But if you reformulate the question by clearly stating the trade-off, “Do you want $5 today and $0 in a month, or $0 today and $10 in a month?” more people choose the larger, albeit deferred, reward. Research shows that reformulating the question pushes people toward the deferred reward because different question choices work with different cognitive processes. In a study with neuroimaging, the second choice question not only decreases the response of the parts of the brain responsible for reward, but it also decreases the activity of the dorsolateral frontal cortex associated with effort-intensive self-control. Consciously reformulating the problem in this way would be an example of willpower, but would not fall within the common understanding of the term. Rather than being based on an effortful struggle against impulses, this willpower forces the individual to rethink the problem and avoid the very need to struggle. These hidden aspects of willpower raise questions about the validity of the whole concept of the term, and lead us to a situation where everyone loses. Either our definition of willpower is too narrow and simplistic to the point of uselessness, or it can be used as an imprecise term based on an inconsistent mixture of different mental processes.
Willpower can be a pre-scientific idea–born in social and philosophical reasoning, not research, and nurtured before it can be experimentally tested. The term has survived in modern psychology because it is intuitively linked to our imagination. The depiction of willpower as a kind of muscular force coincides with some limited examples, such as resistance to desire, and this analogy is reinforced by social expectations stretching back to Victorian moralizing. But these destructive ideas distract us from more accurate ways of understanding human psychology and even from our attempts at meaningful self-control.
The best way forward is to abandon the concept of willpower altogether. With willpower, it is easy to label. It becomes acceptable to destroy social support by treating poverty as a problem of financial discipline, or health as a problem of personal discipline. An extreme example is the punitive approach to our endless war on drugs, which brushes aside problems of substance use as the result of personal choice. An unhealthy moralizing creeps into the most mundane corners of society. When the U.S. began to worry about trash in the 1950s, the American Can Company and other corporations sponsored a “Keep America Beautiful” campaign to deflect attention from the fact that they were producing huge amounts of cheap, disposable and profitable packaging, and to shift the blame for trash onto individuals. It’s easy to hurl moral accusations about willpower. “
So, the established concept of willpower must be abandoned because it leads us in the completely wrong direction, we shift responsibility from ourselves to it, and it’s a road to nowhere.
How, then, do we achieve our goals?
In fact, the formula is simple, but to understand it, you need to understand a few things.
The first thing to understand is the principle of dominance, which was formulated by our compatriot A.A. Ukhtomsky:
“In all moments of life, conditions are created in which the performance of some function becomes more important than the performance of other functions. Performance of this function suppresses other functions.
One striking example of a dominant is the dominant of sexual excitement in the cat, isolated from the males during the heat period. Various stimuli (calling for a bowl of food, clattering of plates on the table) in this case do not cause mewing and animated begging for food, but only an increase in the symptom complex of heat. The administration of even large doses of bromine drugs is incapable of erasing this sexual dominance in the centers.”
That is, we make decisions depending on which dominant turned out to be “stronger.” Another example from me to clarify: if I’m watching a movie and I have to pee, I get up and go (the dominant “I have to pee” overrides the dominant “I want to watch the rest of the movie”)
Another thing to talk about is addictions and habits. Again with examples.
A girl is used to eating a lot and not exercising, suddenly she heard somewhere that it would be good to start leading a healthy lifestyle and engage in fitness (and to improve health and encourage men). But here’s the problem: on Monday it was not possible, the brain again comes up with a bunch of explanations (he is a master at this), referred to the same willpower, etc. And some people lose weight just watching videos on YouTube. What is the problem? Those girls who have lost weight in these videos have formed a very strong “information dominant”. Maybe not just because of this dominant, but its contribution can be enormous (maybe the girl was dumped by her boyfriend, this can also have a strong influence).
Form the “dominant information” must be long and qualitative. Let’s return to our sheep (girls). Let’s remember the one who used to eat a lot and not exercise. Let’s imagine that she started reading articles about losing weight and having a beautiful figure, and watching videos on YouTube on similar topics. Let’s turn to information technology, on the one hand she has a huge familiar life experience, just imagine how many terabytes, not even terabytes, but I do not know what it takes to fit it in, and on the other hand we have just articles and videos. The size is not comparable.
Thus, “information dominance” (read “knowledge”) of the problem is not enough, but we can’t do without it.
The MOST important thing in the successful achievement of the set goals is…………
A VISION OF THE FUTURE
However, some people think that if they think and think about a beautiful yacht, a villa by the sea, a sandy beach and azure water, it will help them. I don’t think so. Your brain will tell you – well, if everything is going to be so awesome, then now you can relax and dissolve in the couch (contagion (brain) only wants this). The only thing that works is a negative motivation (just from the word motive, Latin movēre “move”). That is to clearly understand where we will be, if we do not do something. And if you don’t care about that, then it’s not your goal.
There’s something else I need to mention. We all have a psychic energy that makes us want to do something. This is automatically generated by the reticular formation in our brain, and it doesn’t vary much between people, but why do some people get things done and others barely make it to the kitchen? Let’s remember the society we live in, the consumer society. According to recent studies modern people spend on average 8 hours in front of the screen, and as you may have guessed most of this time is spent on information consumption, which is logical, because our instinct is to collect as much information about our environment as possible in order not to become someone’s dinner. Right now there is not much chance of being eaten on the street, but we still follow our instinct. Consuming information consumes an incredible amount of mental energy. It is also worth noting that the area of the brain responsible for consumption is the antagonist of the area responsible for thinking, and, as we know, if something is not used by our body, it gradually atrophies (which we don’t need for a happy and fulfilling life). Take away your phone, etc., and you magically get a huge amount of power and energy, you just can not do nothing (there will be a healthy anxiety, which will push you to action). Conclusion: you want to live a better life, limit your consumption of information.
One last thought about changing your life for the better, but no less important. When we change our habitual way of life, our dynamic stereotypes, our brain is ANATOMICALLY rearranged, connections between neurons are destroyed and new ones are created, so, I warn you, it is not easy, but it is possible. You just have to become aware of these mechanisms of our brain and remember it when it gets difficult, because then, when new dynamic stereotypes are formed that are already truly useful and necessary for you, it will be as easy to live as before.
So we have an extremely simple but insanely important formula:
Successful goal achievement= “Information dominance” (knowledge of the goal and how to achieve it) + vision of the future(negative motivation) – information consumption.
I want to thank everyone who has read to the end of this article. If you are reading this, then you really care about these issues, and I am very happy about this, because many people just live their lives unconsciously, on automatic, without even thinking that it can change. I will be very happy to hear your comments and feedback. I hope I was useful to someone. Thank you, have a good day!