Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Goal Setting

I recently read the following post about goal setting, and according to the information in this article, only 3% of the population sets goals and only one percent write them down:  The article goes on to describe why it is important to teach kids to set and write down goals.  While I think the intent of the writer is a positive one, I'm not sure I entirely agree.

Goals have value, and can help you to achieve some things by giving focus and direction.  Writing them down (and putting them somewhere you will see it every day) serves as a commitment and a reminder of your ambition.  But I also have several problems with goals. 

In pursuit of every goal, there are obstacles that one will encounter and overcome.  Occasionally these obstacles will cause you to change goals/plans because as they say, "that's the way the cracker crumbles".  So if a goal is going to change and evolve, what is the point of having the goal in the first place?  Wouldn't it be more valuable to be able to roll with the punches?  And if you choose to continue to pursue a goal despite insurmountable obstacles or a change in your needs/development, then it would appear that you would pursuing them with a blind fanatical conviction that is out of touch with reality.  This does not seem to be healthy or productive.

Pursuit of one's goals also prevents one from living in the moment and enjoying what life is offering everyday, every moment.  Instead of living for the future, it would be beneficial to live consciously and presently finding success in the way that you choose your day to unfold.   

Further, if one still chooses to live life according to goals, setting them is not enough.  One must know how to structure the goals so that they are attainable and reasonble.  The goals must be worthy of accomplishing as well, and not just shaping one's fancies.  And in reality a goal is meaningless if one does not have the will to follow through on the goal.  And so many of us lack any meaningful willpower.

Despite my problems with goals, I think they do have some merit and can be a useful tool.  Whether one chooses to live life according to goals or not, it is still informative to understand goal development and utilization.  There is a difference between choosing not to set goals because you do not think it is the best life strategy and failing to set goals or take any actions because you have not thought about the matter.  I applaud the writer of introducing the subject to kids, but I think the emphasis on the importance of goals is overblown.  I have used goals in the past, and I will likely use them in the future, but it is more important for me to set my direction based on principles and conscious living, than the pursuit of my desires which change frequently as I mature and develop.

Do you use goals?  How do you use them, and if so what are they?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Infinite Value and Freedom

In a recent conversation with a friend, we agreed that life has inherent value.  That is something I can agree with.  There are entire industries dedicated to determining what that value is and balancing risk accordingly.  The problem with these industries however is that they are currently incapable of calculating the infinite value that life has.  Life does have infinite value to you.  Is there any amount of money for which you would give your life?  The answer is no. 

Until you live your life to reflect this infinite value, you are not free, and you will not be fulfilled.  Despite the infinite value of our time, we choose to squander away precious moments every day by placing a finite value on our time.  We continue to live our lives for finite income, letting somebody else dictate what our time is worth.  Further we tend to squander away precious moments "vegging out", or mindlessly relaxing instead of being conscious and engaged. 

So the question quickly becomes, how does one live life to reflect infinite value?  How does one attain freedom?  I have many answers to complex questions, but I have not yet been able to answer this one.  The only ideas I have come up with have been to become filthy rich, thereby virtually having infinite value, or by becoming filthy poor, thereby taking complete control of your time.  Both are equally difficult to achieve, and I look forward to any comments that could contribute to the answer.

It seems a thrid possibility, rejecting the current system of values entirely and constructing it anew, holds promise as a solution, but I do not know what that would look like.  I look forward to your thoughts on the matter in the comments.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Life of Truth

Picture a life in which you lived truthfully.  What does it look like?  Does it sound like something appealing?  The value of living truthfully isn't in some righteous virtue, but by fully engaging in the Truth, you will journey down the correct path in Life.  This correct path will lead to the fulfillment you are missing.

So what does it look like to live a truthful life, and why is it appealing?  On the surface, living truthfully means your language reflects true statements and that you do not lie.  Not even white lies.  How many times in a day do you typically lie?  While you can probably count a few, there are numerous times that you lie without even realizing it.  According to the research people self report lying between 1-9 times per day varying by gender with men telling more lies than women.  But most of this research is done by self report, and is likely not accurate.  Further, there are many instances of lying that happen automatically and people often lie to themselves.  Even if people were honest in their self-report these instances would go unnoticed.  And while lying is a prevalent part of everyone's day, imagine how your life would be different if you told the truth in complete confidence.  Instead of lying to get your way, tell the truth with no shame to get your way.  The results are quite surprising, and you will be surprised to see how your life changes for the better.

And beyond telling the Truth, try living the truth.  That is bring your actions to coincide with both what you are saying, and that which is truly right.  This is what truthful living is all about.  While it sounds simple, it is incredibly difficult and takes a tremendous amount of will power.  It means not succumbing to the tempation of telling lies, even the white ones.  It means accepting responsibility and being held accountable; completely, 100%.  But it also means never having to be ashamed, or afraid, or confused.  It also means always being correct.  And you can't go wrong if you're always correct.

Instead of lying to yourself, take action to accomplish what you really want and what is good for you, what is Truthful.  It might mean quitting your job to pursue your passion or a worthy cause.  It might mean giving up unhealthy food to eat that which will satisfy your body rather than your pleasures.  Acting according to the truth can mean making some difficult decisions, but that is why the path of Truth is such a powerful journey.  It can only take you to greatness.

Now dedicate yourself to living a life of Truth.

Note:  Inspired by Ghandi's Autobiography

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Routine vs Adventure

Humans are creatures of habit.  This is demonstrated in our daily routines, which for the typical American consists of something along the lines of: wake up, get ready for work, commute to work, work, commute home, extra cirricular, dinner, bed.  There is obviously room for variation, and the specifics about where one works and spends freetime differ, but some form of this routine describes the daily life of most people.  This is safe and comfortable, but it doesn't really bring fulfillment into one's life. 

Think about the times in life where you really felt alive, and ask yourself if those times have been during your routine, or if it was at times when your routine was broken.  The late night adventures with friends, travels to foreign places, coming across a lot of money; these are things people dream of, but rarely experience when caught in routine.  It takes adventure to be exceptional and live an exceptional life.  Why can't every day bring the types of Adventure that make you feel alive?

Its true that Adventure may find you during your routine by chance, but more often than not, Adventure requires you to find it. If you do, it is willing to give you what you seek, but you must make the effort to find it yourself.  Wouldn't you rather experience life to its fullest everyday than live a mote life of routine?  Don't you owe it to yourself to achieve the greatest you can in life?  What will you achieve by adventure compared to that which you would during routine? 

Its time to shape your life so that you feel alive, for it is only the exceptional life that is worth living.  Do something everyday that excites or scares you.  Take risks.  Push yourself to the boundaries and live your life as if it were an epic adventure.  Give up your short term safety and comfort to find the true meaning of life.  This is the stuff legends are made of.  Make the leap to challenge yourself to live an exceptional life.  Climb the mountain and scream from the top of your lungs that you have conquered it, and you will stand above the common man.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Power of Mental Scripts

Our minds are continually using language  to report our beliefs of the way the world is to ourselves.  By taking control of this language, you can harness the power of mental scripts.  You are probably aware of several of these mental scripts as they make their way from your subconscious to your daily conversations, but there are many more scripts that are running through your head that you may not be aware of but still have a profound affect on your life.  The more a script is repeated, the more it is believed to be reality, and the more your body manifests itself according to that script.  For example, the person who has the mental script of "I'm really funny", has that meme running through his head throughout the day either consciously or subconsciously.  Because he or she believes they are funny, they act in a way to manifest that belief by telling jokes and laughing frequently, thereby becoming someone who is funny.  This belief and mental script may even make its way into the individuals daily conversation in the way of a story starting with, "I did the funniest thing today...".  This concept holds true for nearly every aspect of your life.  It is important to understand what your personal mental scripts are and make sure that they are what you want them to be. 

The common ones are likely easy to identify and come up in daily conversations with those close to you.  For example the mental script, "I'm doing well" is a common theme that usually holds true unless you reply with something like, "I'm feeling under the weather".  While there are many positive scripts there are many negative ones as well.  It is important to identify the negative scripts and modify them to achieve a positive outcome.  Some common negative daily scripts include, "I'm fat", "I hate my job", "I hate X political party", "I wish I were rich", "I like fast food (I'm lovin' it)", etc.  By having these mental scripts or ones similar, they manifest themselves in reality.  Instead of thinking to yourself, "I'm fat"(even if you are), It would be better to think, "I have weight to lose, and I'm on my way to losing it", or "I enjoy eating vegetables more than sugar".  By changing the script to something positive, your belief changes and your body begins to manifest its new belief.  While the common scripts are typically easy to identify by looking at what complaints come up in conversation, there are many more scripts which are buried deeper and harder to identify.  For example, people often hold themselves back unnecesarily with scripts like "I don't deserve to be rich", or "I'm not a people person".   By digging deep with some self reflection, one can dredge up hidden mental scripts that are holding you back and change them to positive ones which will lead to real benefits. 

It is also important to understand where your mental scripts come from and begin to regulate those influences on your beliefs.  Advertising is a very powerful force to building mental scripts.  McDonald's, as I alluded to previously, has the theme, "I'm loving it".  When you hear this over and over while staring at a cheeseburger, you begin to believe this to be the case as your mental script changes and accepts it as fact.  Eliminating advertising to prevent this is an option, though incredibly difficult in today's world, but you could also work on changing the script that is being thrown at you.  For example, you could develop a script that "I do not trust McDonald's", or "McDonald's is unhealthy and distastful" thereby effectively blocking their influence on your mental scripts.  Advertising isn't the only source of mental scripts however.  Politicians, coworkers, friends, family, church, etc. all play a role in building your mental scripts and they have been since your birth.  Once you begin to limit the influences of others on your scripts you can then begin to create your own scripts.  Creating your own scripts free of the influence of others is incredibly difficult to do, but by doing so you will open doors to creating a life a freedom and greatness.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Thing About Desire

Desire is a powerful motivator, but it is important that you are aware of how your desires are established.  Desires can  be derived from either that which you dislike or that which you like.  Negative or positive emotions.  Most desires are derived from that which you do not like.  We go to work because we do not want to be poor, we buy a house because we are afraid of being homeless, we buy the newest iPhone because we do not like social rejection, we want taxes to end because we don't like our money taken from us, and we eat food because we are afraid of being hungry.  The list continues and the examples of desire derived from positive emotions are difficult to come by.  While most of these examples can be framed in a positive manner (I eat food because I like to be full) the underlying motivation for the desire and the behavior is a response to that which we do not like.  It is a rare individual who can create a desire from sheer will of that which they want to achieve.  To base your desires on that which you like sets you apart from the masses which base their desires on that which they do not like.  It is the ability to create based on foresight and will that creates nobility.  It is the noble who change the world and find fulfillment in their lives.  It is the noble who have direction and purpose.  It is the noble who master their will and transcend fear  to achieve greatness.

Take this moment to examine where your desires come from, and eliminate the desires that come from negative emotions because by transforming your goals into that which you truly will to happen, allows you to achieve the greatness that sits dormant inside of you.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Systems of Greed

I frequently have political discussions with my friends.  Several years ago, I was discussing the economy with two of my friends, and also which systems of government work best.  After stating they were in favor of improving the economy at all costs, and giving theories about how best to do that, they proclaimed their reasoning boiled down to, "Because I'm greedy".  The bluntness of this statement shocked me a little bit.  It came across as a raw truth about their motivation, and while I wasn't necessarily surprised at the proclamation, I was shocked at the corrosiveness of the statement.  Several years have past since that conversation, and I am only reminded of it because of video I recently came across.  The video is Milton Friedman discussing how greed is the basis of Capitalism, and how this is a good thing.  You can see the video here:

In short, his argument is that Greed is human nature.  Any system not run on greed has not been successful.  Capitalism is run on greed and it has been the most sucessful of all economic systems.   All political systems have run on greed.  Therefore greed is good and so is Capitalism.

He is a good talker with an enchanting rhythm, strong presence, and uses alot of loaded rhetoric to get his point across, however his argument is flawed on several points.

While greed is a PART of human nature, it is not the essence of human nature.  Humans are also happy, sad, angry, kind, compassionate, excitable, jealous, prideful, loving, charitable, etc.  To base an economic system on greed because it reflects human nature is flawed because human nature is much more complex than a single emotion.  While I conceed that greed has its place in life, it is flawed to say that it is the basis of human nature.  If we are to build an economic system to reflect human nature, we must also build in the other aspects which represent how mankind functions.  This would be a very complex system, much more so than the current one.  A start to remedy the current situation would be to acknowledge our system is built on greed and try to incorporate another emotion.  It would be wise to include greed's opposite, namely compassion, as it would lend a balance to a lopsided system.  While such a system does not yet exist, it does not mean a transition cannot begin.

A system built solely on greed is  imbalanced as it does not take into account the other complex emotions inherent in human nature.  An imbalanced system will self destruct as the number of people who lose out in that system grows exponentially.  Friedman points out that all other economic systems have failed and uses this to support Capitalism.  He also states that all other systems are built on greed.  I would argue that capitalism is no better, it just hasn't been around long enough to fail.  What we've witnessed over the last few years demonstrates this.  Friedman might argue, "Who is going to build a system based on anything other than greed"?  He has a point.  When greed is so prevalently rewarded as it is in the current system it is hard to achieve any other standard.  When the system falls apart however, there is no other option but to reconstruct under different principles.  As humans we should strive to do this before the system malfunctions to a point where it forces us to do so.  The change needs to come from the bottom up to reward acts that are beneficial everyone's state of being rather than those acts that are beneficial only to the individual.  I support building an economic system that reflects human nature just as Friedman does, but I disagree that humans are mearly greedy scoundrels.  Lets begin to act according to the virtues that we all agree will bring humanity to a better future.