Does MORE Choices Actually Liberate You?

There’s nothing like the freedom of choice.

Nothing so bittersweet. Actually, more bitter than it is sweet.

With the coming of the updated 21st century market, there are too many choices for even the most routine products:40 different types of toothpastes, 360 different types of shampoo and 275 choices of cereal.

It’s no more about what you do. It’s about what you choose to do.

Although it may seem like that more options lead to better choices, it’s not always true. There are counter-intuitive effects of choices, some of which are not to your benefit.

Here, I list you some of the most paradoxical effects of choices that you unknowingly choose to ignore:

 

Choices lead to depression and loneliness

Have you ever felt frustrated choosing the perfect clothes out of your overfilled wardrobe?

If yes, then you’re close to what this feels like.

While abundance of choices give you freedom, it also carries along a numbing uncertainty, depression and selfishness.

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A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that choices mean different things to Westerners and non-Westerners.

While European Americans seemed to experience a threat to their independent self when they were not offered a free choice, the Indians did not feel it significant.

Denial of choice might make you feel opposition to the right of personal preference.

When there are too many choices and you have to choose one, you tend to focus on the trade off which makes you feel worse in the long-run.

If choices don’t make add anything, they shouldn’t take anything away either, right?

But choices do…

 

Choices rob your satisfaction

In a study done at Swarthmore College, college students were asked to evaluate a variety of gourmet chocolates:

They’d choose the chocolate based on description and appearance. Then they tasted and rated that chocolate. In the end, in a different room students were asked to choose a small box of the chocolates in lieu of cash as payment for their participation.

For one group of students, the initial array of chocolates numbered 6, and for the other 30.

The key results were↓

  • Those faced with the small array were more satisfied with their tasting than those faced with large array.
  • They were also 4 times more likely to choose chocolate rather than cash as their compensation.

The more and more choices you have, the more unsatisfied you are, even if those choices do objectively better than other ones.

When you choose one among a lot of alternatives, you keep stressing over whether you’ve made the right choice.

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Then, you always see grass greener on the other side. You tend to feel that you’ve missed one great opportunity (read: choice) even if it’s value is the same.

And if the choices are greater than the greatest…

 

Too many choices lead you to choosing none

When I say this, some of you might argue that if this was true, markets would’ve been simpler.

But markets are full of chaos and pool of choices. And you might think that they’re still in profits, but.. they’re not.

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There is evidence of declining sales due to too many choices.

Sheena Iyengar, in her TED Talk, How To Make Choosing Easier tells about an experiment she did as a graduate at Stanford University in a grocery store:

The shop had 348 different kinds of jam. They set up a tasting booth at the entrance of the store. Half of the consumers were offered 6 different types of jam and the other 24.

They discovered two things:

 

24 Kinds Of Jam 6 Kinds Of Jam
People likely to stop 60% 40%
People likely to purchase 3% 30%

 

This means that people were six times more likely to buy a jar of jam when there are 6 as compared to when there are 14.

Single option aversion is a psychology that has always worked in the consumer market. You’re more likely to buy a product when it’s the only options.

Or when there are not too many options.

And you might think that more choices make it simple, but it doesn’t…

 

Choices kill simple living

Simple living is also characterized as minimalism.

And what is minimalism? Choosing less but choosing better.

In his book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less, Greg McKeown highlights that because of too many choices, we have lost the sight of the most important ones.

He tells that the society’s ability to manage choices has lacked over the number of choices.

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This is what is the decision fatigue: the more choices you’re forced to make, the more quality of your decision deteriorates.

Simplicity always overpowers choices in being successful.

Barry Schwartz, the author of The Paradox Of Choice: Why More Is Less, also says this in his TED Talk:

He says that choices paralyze you rather than liberating you. With so many options to choose from, people find it hard to choose at all.

When you have too much to do, you choose to do nothing at all. You procrastinate to delay choosing.

If you have too many goals at the same time, you’ll achieve none properly. If you have just one, it’s not so hard to focus.

Achieving one makes you achieve more.

If you don’t keep tempting yourself with newer brands or better goals, you’ll keep it simpler.

 

Conclusion

While choices may seem to make us better-off, that’s not always the case. Too few options bore us while too many makes you paralyzed.

With the abundance of choices in the 21st century, choices has led to some negative effects such as feelings of depression, loneliness, less satisfaction and killing simplicity.

There’s a bitter sweet spot of variety where choices don’t hinder your identity: when they’re not too less neither too much.

Some of the solutions to avoid drowning in the pool of choices is to analyze the utility of the choice you make. We tend to remember only the peak pleasure point and how it ended.

You can also simplify your life by cutting off from clever marketing, setting up routines and staying away from distractions.

How has too many choices led you to feel trapped? What did you do about it? I’d love to know in the comments below.

The Beginner’s Guide For Improving Focus In A Distracted Economy

You have an attention span of just 8 seconds. That’s one second shorter to goldfishes.

Out of all the human abilities that have diminished during the decades, focus is the most problematic.

You have faced it too, haven’t you? You stared at the screen for five minutes without blinking, went through the page thrice, but you couldn’t grasp what was written.

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You noticed your mind is wandering.

You aren’t alone. All of us have troubles focusing. We all have been distracted.

And sadly, distractions feel great. However, there is no such thing as free lunch. No matter how amazing distractions feel, they lead to failure and regret.

Focus is the key to get things done. It’s how successful people have fulfilled their goals and become extraordinary.

It is more important than effort. Infinite amounts of effort is useless with your attention being split.

Challenging times are a piece of cake with the human ability to concentrate. Most of your tasks could be accomplished in a fraction of your normal time with complete focus.

But with the current economy selling your scarce attention, focus seems like an expensive choice.

In this article, I share with you some straightforward and easy-to-follow procedures to improve your ability to focus:

(Just don’t loose your attention in between)

 

1. Prioritize Your Energy

Have you ever felt that there are not enough hours in a day to get things done?

In the book, The Power Of Full Engagement, authors Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, explain why we don’t get things done even with enough time:

It’s not time that we lack, it’s energy. Human energy drains with each hour of the day. The book defies the law of “time management” and focuses on “energy management” instead.

Managing your energy (not your time) efficiently and productively, is the secret mantra to higher performance and faster growth.

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Also, make your to-do lists according to your priorities. When our mind sees the top item in the list, it automatically assumes it to be the most urgent.

The priority action needs to be taken on the task that is:

Urgent + Important + Hard

Set the list according to this technique and go on checking things off.

But remember…

 

2. Have Only One Goal At A Time

This is the easiest to get and hardest to implement strategy: Stop having so many goals.

All of us have tried to check off all the items in a long to-do list and feel good about ourselves.

However, accomplishing quantity isn’t accomplishing quality. Choices frustrate us. When there are too many things to do at the same time, we end up doing nothing.

Or we end up trying to do everything.

We all know how that works out. The secret is not to work harder to achieve more, it is to work smarter and achieve greater.

Barry Schwartz, the author of The Paradox of Choice, talks in his TED talk about how choices produces three negative effects on people:

  1. When we get too much to choose from, we find it hard to choose at all.

One effect, paradoxically, is that it produces paralysis, rather than liberation.

2.  Even if we manage to overcome the paralysis and make a choice, we end up less satisfied with the result of choice than we would be if we had fewer options to choose from.

The more options there are, the easier it is to regret anything at all that is disappointing about the option that you chose.”

3. Choices escalates our expectations. And expectations ruin you.

“Adding options to people’s lives can’t help but increase the expectations people have about how good those options will be.”

You might think that getting more done would fasten your progress. But it’s the opposite. Humans suck at multitasking. It makes you less efficient and hinders your creativity.

Set your mind only on one task at a time. Decide a time limit to your goal. Finish it. And then, focus on the next goal.

However, don’t become a workaholic…

 

3. Schedule Boring Breaks

Studies have found that people who take 15-minute breaks every couple of hours end up being more productive.

Scott Young, was able to put 8+ hours of focus per day during the MIT challenge. He mentions in his blog that he never studied in the evening or on weekends. And he is guilt-free for that.

He highlights that if you don’t schedule your off hours, your mind will do it for you: by procrastinating and losing focus.

Decide first when you are not going to work. Yes, that’s right. Schedule your distractions as precisely as you schedule your working hours.

If breaks are taken correctly, they could enhance your focus.

They help you restore your energy. Amazingly, breaks also help you in problem-solving. Ever left a problem and found the solution out of nowhere in a while or two?

That, my friend, was the power of breaks. Detaching from the problem you are stuck on for a while could help you regain your focus. Relaxing is as important as focus.

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But, do you know what good breaks are?

Good breaks are boring. Breaks are tricky business. If not applied with intelligence, they could make you fall in the pit of procrastination.

Here’s the trick: A break shouldn’t be fun. It should be relaxing. Do a boring break than the work you’re supposed to do (take a walk, sit quietly doing nothing for some time). This will make you itch to do something.

That’s when you get back at work.

But, what if your work environment is uncomfortable, or distracting?

 

4. Create The Right Environment

Motivation is often overvalued. Environment matters more than you think.

If you want to focus on grasping a subject matter by self-study, a noisy, distracted environment doesn’t allow you to.

Your motivation, willpower, focus, ability- all of this matters. But in the long run, your environment overpowers them.

If you are trying to concentrate with tabs of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram open, you are not focusing. You are just creating an unhealthy work environment for yourself.

Distraction could make you feel guilty. You wanted to complete the task today but then you started surfing over YouTube.

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Cut off all distractions. Use softwares to block social media sites when you work. Set your phone on pilot mode. Hang a “Do not disturb” sign at your door so that your colleagues or family don’t interrupt you. Unplug from technology when you work.

Keep yourself in a quiet surrounding if it works better for you. Use music to re-energize yourself in a distracted environment.

Dehydration could also reduce your concentration. Drink water frequently even if you don’t feel thirsty. Don’t sit on uncomfortable chairs to work. Have the right breakfast. Get proper sleep. Walk regularly.

Create an environment that favors you. Environment could make winning easier.

But even the perfect environment cannot make you get shit done if you let your thoughts overpower you…

 

5. Be Here Now

When you’re working, you’re working. When you’re relaxing, you’re relaxing.

Don’t think of relaxing when you are finishing your task and don’t think about working when you’re chilling on your weekend.

If you think about the upcoming party at your house while making a presentation, it’s not going to be your 100%.

Be aware. Be present. Thinking is continuous. Once you start thinking about something else in the middle of your work, it’s hard to come back and regain that flow and focus.

Meditation and exercising could help you improve your attention span to a considerable extent.

Don’t feel guilty when your mind wanders. It happens to literally everyone. Instead, identify your distraction. It’s the first step to gain awareness.

When you realize that your mind has wandered, slowly bring your attention back to the task you were doing.

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If you worry too much, schedule a “Worry Time”. This a psychological trick to stop worrying amidst your work. Set aside some 15-30 minutes for the day for just, worrying.

In this time, you could list all the things that trouble you or stress you out. Don’t think about how to solve them. But if your mind goes there, it’s fine.

And interestingly, this could lead to a significant reduction in anxiety and stress during work. You could do the same if you overthink.

Conclusion

With having an attention span of just 8 seconds, it’s hard to attain focus and get things done. I have shared some simple and straightforward methods to throw away your distractions and improve your focus. 

First, you have to prioritize your energy. It’s not time that you lack, it’s energy that drains out. Do the most important tasks when you’re the most energetic.

Second, have only one goal at a time. The more you try to get done at the same time, the less efficiently will you be able to do it.

Third, schedule breaks accordingly but make sure they’re boring. When you do something less interesting than the task at hand, it makes you itch to go back and continue. 

Fourth, create the right environment. It matters more than you think. Working in a distraction free, favorable environment enhances focus. 

Fifth, be in the present. Do what you’re doing. Stop thinking about something else. Identify when your mind wanders, and slowly go back to focus on the task you were actually doing. 


What are the problems you faced in focusing? How did you deal with them? I’d love to know in the comments below.

Why You Shouldn’t Resist Pain And Other Negative Emotions

How many of you have tried to push away pain?

I bet you read positivity books and articles and how law of attraction works. All of those articles told you to not think about pain and think “positive” instead.

All of you might’ve tried to avoid actually feeling the pain and forced yourself to resist it instead. But I’m gonna tell you otherwise: Don’t avoid pain.

Go through it. Feel every inch of pain dripping in you. Because, a feeling’s purpose is to be felt. You feel what you feel. There is no reasonable excuse to change how you actually feel.

And, besides, there is no logical reason to resist pain. But I’ve got reasons why you should feel pain (and all other ‘negative’ emotions):

1. Pain Is As Necessary As Joy

You need to experience sadness as much as happiness. Life doesn’t come with all rainbows and sunsets.

You need the rains too.

Just happy days would make life boring.

The pain equation describes suffering as the product of pain and resistance.

Suffering = Pain ÷ Resistance

I was never good at math, but as much as my basics tell me this means:

Suffering× Resistance = Pain

The more you resist, the more your pain multiplies.

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Even if you think you don’t need pain, you cannot deny it. It is as inevitable as joyful days are. Life will give you rough days, no matter how hard you try to escape them.

So, instead just accept it. Accept that you’ll have to face pain. Accept that it’s gonna be a hard time. Rather than questioning why’s this happening to you, handle it.

Whining won’t get you anywhere except in the gutters of even greater sadness. Always be thankful. It could’ve been worse.

Gratitude makes you happy too.

When you accept what you feel instead of changing it, you mentally disconnect from the pain. Remind yourself that pain would come to you, and it’s necessary.

Because without pain, you wouldn’t be as strong as you are now…

2. Pain Makes You Stronger

Think about the hardest time of your life. Or your worst breakup.

You might be getting flashbacks of endless sobbing nights and aching hearts. But now, look a little ahead: Ask yourself what changed in you after that.

You became a lot stronger, didn’t you? You changed into a lot better person than you were before.

Studies have shown that turmoil and trauma could make you not only stronger but more appreciative, compassionate and confident.

Analyze it yourself. You wouldn’t be what you are hadn’t you suffered as much as you have. The greater the suffering, the more the maturity.

A research done in the University of Arizona performed self-experimenting exercises on 210 people, aged 17 to 29, who were experiencing breakups.

Participants discussed their emotional distress of breakup and feelings surrounding it in speaking exercises.

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The results were that participants who emitted their sadness gained a better self-concept and identity of themselves.

Nobody wants pain. But in the end, that’s what makes you a better person.

And, the concept that resisting pain makes it go away is a myth. It’s actually quite the opposite…

3. Resisting Pain Causes More Pain

Pain, cries and sadness are all healthy responses to failure. Yes, healthy.

There is no reason you should force down sweet untrue thoughts down your throat. In fact, that’s gonna harm you instead.

Forcing yourself to stop thinking about something actually makes you think about it even more. Stop being a control freak. Let your heart feels what it feels. Let your mind think what it’s thinking.

Cry like a baby when someone hurts you. Feel the failure exhausting you. Scream the anger punching in your stomach.

The reason why pain is viewed with such negativity is that it is regarded with failure and blurriness of one’s own identity.

But, what you need to realize is: Your pain is not you. Your failure is not you. When you are aware of your pain, you don’t misunderstand it as your identity.

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Eckhart Tolle, in his book, A New Earth, calls something as “pain body” which unconsciously makes a home in you and becomes you.

This leads you to believe your pain is you. What you need to do is identify your pain and be aware of it. Be aware that something’s causing you pain and you separate from it immediately.

If you try to take control on what you feel, you will end up being more sad and painful than you were before.

Sometimes, letting go is the solution.

What you feel is beyond your control. How you respond to it is. You need to suffer to heal.

Don’t welcome pain at your doorstep, but don’t push it away either.

Pain is beautiful. It’s all you have.

Conclusion

While you shouldn’t romanticize pain, you shouldn’t avoid it either. Studies have shown that resisting pain is what actually causes more pain.

And, since pain isn’t avoidable in life, you should try to learn from it instead of running away. Pain is what shapes you into a more emotionally healthier and mature person.

Don’t preach negative emotions but when you feel them, don’t deny it. Trying to escape from something natural is doing you more harm than good.

What was the most painful moment of your life? How did you deal with it?

I’d love to know in the comments below.

Is Positive Thinking A Pill For Curing Every Life Event?

Positive thinking is a just another staggering “feel-good” element today.

If you search Amazon for “positive thinking”, you are poured with numerous books to stay positive. The same goes for infinite articles on Google. And all of you know about the motivational videos that pop up on YouTube.

But the problem is: Positive thinking is junk food for the mind.

It might make you feel good now, but it’s going to make your mind unhealthy in the long run.

I know that the world has been preaching the perception of positive thinking since Norman Vincent’s “The Power of Positive Thinking”.

The thing is, it worked for the same reason Rhonda’s “The Secret” works in our generation: Making you feel airy-fairy good.

You might rub your evidences and fairy-tales on my face now, so I got this:

The Flaws In Positive Thinking Researches

Before you throw all your ambiguous studies about how positive people are healthier than others or live longer, I want you to know something:

These studies are correlation studies. They do examine statistical connection between two things but do not specify the cause and effect.

This means, that positive thinking might make you healthier or that eating healthier might make you think positively.

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Another interpretation: These correlations between positive outlook and longer lives might be the result of a third factor- say, being highly energetic or exercising.

The same reasons might also be valid for better job performance at work and lifting of depressed moods.

So, the researches that make you feel all rosy about positive perceptions might not be accurate.

Now, you might argue that positive thinking has led people out of the dark. It may have made them feel better about their life… Or…

The results might have been counter-intuitive.

The Negative Effects Of Positive Outlooks

Barbara Ehrenreich, in her book, “Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America” tells that “power of positive thinking” might not help us get happy, rich or cure cancer.

Being a patient of breast cancer herself, Barbara exposes the downsides of positive thinking with clarity and pissing-on-the-face honesty.

She argues that positive thinking is a force that masks unhappiness and poses dangers to the economy:

“Positive thinking promised them a sense of control in a world where the “cheese” was always moving. They may have had less and less power to chart their own futures, but they had been given a worldview — a belief system, almost a religion — that claimed they were in fact infinitely powerful, if they could only master their own minds.”

Ehrenreich also notes that while looking at the bright side of a bad situation may make feel one better on an individual level, but, it discourages any sort of collective action.

And psychology has found this to be true.

Having positive thinking fools your mind to believe that you have already achieved a goal, which makes you sluggish to actually work for it.

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Positive fantasies reduce your future effort.  In a study, students were asked to think about positive things that’d happen if the health crisis in Sierra resolved. Others were asked factual descriptions about what’d happen after crisis ends.

Afterward, these students were asked to donate money to the charity. They could give a small donation($1) or a large donation($25), which was a large sum for an undergraduate.

The results were: Positive thinkers almost never donated $25, while 25% of those who gave factual description were willing to donate.

Another study in the same context found that: Those who thought positively about the crisis were less likely to volunteer their time too, compared to those who factually thought about the crisis.

Hey, fantasies are good. So is envisioning your success. But, only as long as you’re ready to indulge in the real thing. 

And, about getting the depressed in the light, positive thinking doesn’t work so well there either:

Positive thinking actually has opposite effects on people with low self-esteem.

In a series of studies, participants (grouped in high self-esteem and low self-esteem) were asked to conditionally repeat positive self-affirmation statements, every 15 seconds in 4 minutes.

Another group of a mixture of high self-esteem and low self-esteem were asked to have no self-statements.

Clearly, the high self-esteem participants in no self-statements condition had yet higher esteem than their peers in low self esteem.

However, in the positive self-affirmations condition, repeating statements like “I am lovable” put low self-esteem participants in even a worse mood. Not only this, they had even a lower self-esteem than those of the no self-statements group.

The affirmation did the antonym of what it was supposed to do.

Why?

Because, what you resist, persists.

No, really. Thinking about not to think negative thoughts actually leads to more accumulation of negative thoughts.

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It’s the irony Dan Wegner told us on thought suppression. He asked participants to speak consciously of their thoughts for five minutes, while trying not to think of a white bear.

If it does come to mind, he told them to ring a bell.

Despite the instructions to avoid thinking about it, participants rang the bell more than once per minute, on average. 

It’s obvious, the paradox of unwanted thoughts:

A part of your brain does resist thinking about the forbidden, but another part also keeps “checking” that you don’t think about it, therefore, ironically, bringing it up.

So, the more you try not to think about negativity, the more you think about it. The same goes with happiness.

The more you try to become happy, the less you are.

I know that positive thinking does make you feel better. And yes, it might. Sure it will.

But in the long run, it will lead you to feeling more distressed.

In his book, “The Antidote: Happiness For People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking”, Oliver Burkeman highlights this.

When you think positively about the future, it results in you being less prepared now, and more worried later.

Worse, it leads to increased symptoms of depression.

Solution

I just want to clarify, I am not posing suffering in a romantic way.

I’m just telling to not see the glass half-full when it’s lying shattered on the floor.

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Accepting things not as our minds pose them to be but as they actually are is not dumping positivism out of our lives. It’s creeping in realism.

The solution is not to lay hopeless. It’s to not decline pain, suffering and failures. Because, believe it or not, these are the things that actually makes you grow and learn.

You need to understand, it’s okay not to be okay. Follow the radical acceptance theory, which tells to accept problems rather than denying them.

There is no sense either, in denying problems. Problems make you flourish and take you out of your comfort zone. They make you grow into a stronger and better person.

Instead of wishing for great rewards, wish for good problems. We all need suffering in our lives.

Think of the worse that could happen and stay prepared for it. If not, you might end up getting disappointed and unsuccessful.

Conclusion

While positivism is a great thing to intricate in one’s life, it’s effects can be counter-intuitive.

Researches have shown that excess of positive perception could lead you to laziness in achieving your goals and a lower self esteem in those with already low boosts of confidence.

Believing things are good as they are makes us resist to making them better.

Positive thinking is amazing. But let’s get real: Positive thinking doesn’t fix problems.

It just makes you ignore them.

What are your thoughts about positive thinking? How has it affected your life?

I’d love to know in the comment section below!

The Truth About The Glossy ‘Follow Your Passion’ Advice

Mark Cuban was never interested in technology when he was in college. He took one computer class and cheated at it.

But when he got out of college, one of the first jobs he got was in technology. That’s when he realized, “I love this.”

Seven hours flew by while Cuban taught himself the program, but he thought it had just been 10 minutes.

Then, Cuban started his own computer consulting service, MicroSolutions which he sold to CompuServe in 1990 for $6 million.

Soon enough, in 1995, Mark and his friend Todd Wegner created an online streaming audio service, Audionet (now Broadcast.com) for listening to Hoosiers basketball games in Texas.

In four short years, they sold Audionet to Yahoo for $5.6 billion.

This journey has led Cuban to believe that the “follow your passion” advise is total BS.

He believes in “following your effort.” When you spend hours working hard at something, you get good at it. And when you get good at it, you tend to enjoy it more and it becomes your passion.

Woah. Look how that turned out.

Instead of the classic that we’re forced to believe “Follow your passion and make a career out of it”, it’s “Follow your effort and it’ll become your passion.”

And it’s not the first time that a self-made billionaire has followed his effort and it has become his passion.

Steve Jobs, who is famously quoted for saying “Do what you love and love what you do”, wasn’t actually passionate about starting a company.

In the book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport mentions how Jobs was passionate about Zen Buddhism. He studied Western History and dance, and dabbled in Eastern mysticism.

Even when he worked on the idea of designing computer circuit boards, he didn’t leave his regular job. This was something he did just for quick cash.

Sure, Jobs eventually grew passionate about his work and he started loving what he did. But he didn’t follow his passion. He followed his effort.

But, then, why does everyone keep telling you to follow your passion?

Why People Tell You To Follow Your Passion

For the same reason that a YouTuber shares with you that putting toothpaste or 10 expensive products on her acne cured them overnight.

For the same reason that porn websites tell you to buy this cream for $100 and grow your dick thrice its size.

They tell you to follow your passion because you’ll buy it. It’s appealing and daring. It tells you that you have a “calling” and you have to muster the courage to find it and after that your life will be fantastic.

It sounds so sexy in our heads. It’s masturbation for the mind.

But if you break it down objectively, this advice is misleading, irrational and vague.  

How to follow your passion when there’s too much competition, no stable income and almost equal to zero requirements for it?

Ah, the classic “starving artist” image comes to mind.

And job satisfaction is much more complex than simply following your passion. It has much more key ingredients than simply the factor of loving what you do.

Also, it makes the assumption of you already having a preexisting passion.

What If You Don’t Have A Passion

“Follow your passion” advice assumes that you already have a passion. You just have to match a job to it.

But our interests drastically change throughout our lives.

In your childhood, you might’ve seen Titanic and wanted to be an actor. When you watched porn for the first time, you thought you’d make money fucking hot chicks, you know, you’ll do what you love.

So, what happened, dickhead? Why aren’t you making porno movies? And hey, I don’t see you clapping on the red carpet when Leonardo DiCaprio won an Oscar.

The truth is, the things that make you happy, the things that interest you, change throughout your life.

Also, you suck at predicting what will make you happy. Deciding you’ll have pizza or noodles for dinner is a toughie for you, but you can surely estimate what will make you happy.

Cal Newport has a way out. Instead of “following” your passion, you could “cultivate” your passion.

Instead of assuming that you just have to find your “calling”, find something that interests you. Work on it. Does it make you forget you have to decide between noodles and pizza?

If yes, great. You just found your passion.

Elizabeth Gilbert talks about “following your curiosity” in her hummingbird speech. She tells you to nurture your curious mind and give anything that interests you at least one shot.

Gilbert then uses hummingbird metaphors how you will fly from tree to tree, pollinating everywhere. And somewhere in the middle, you’ll find that something you don’t want to give up on.

That tree that you’d never want to leave. Here it is again: Following your curiosity has just led you to finding your passion.

And, right about now, you might be thinking, “This is complicated. What the heck should I do for my career?”

What Is Your Ikigai

According to the Japanese, everyone has an Ikigai. It’s a reason to “get up in the morning.”

Iki means life and Gai means value or worth. So, it’s something that gives value to your life.

It’s simply the heart of this image:

80,000 hours has covered all of it in their job satisfaction research.

What I like about the concept of Ikigai is that it has concrete, doable and rational concept of a “dream job.”

Whatever you choose to do should overlap between what you love to do, what you can get paid for, what the society needs and what you are good at.

Finding your ikigai gives meaning and purpose to your life.

Same things said in different ways: Cultivate your passion. Follow your effort. Follow your curiosity. Find your ikigai.

I know all of it sounds so unsexy. “Follow your passion” is so much more sexy in our brains. Effort, curiosity, cultivation, ikigai, not so much.

But that’s what life is. It’s about living it the “unsexy” way.

Forget following your passion. Find your unsexy.

Why Do You Need To Cultivate The Art Of Challenging Your Beliefs

There’s a woman who comes into the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston for surgery.

Beth Israel is a teaching hospital for Harvard, one of the best hospitals in the country.

So, this woman comes, she’s anesthetized, the surgeon operates her, stitches her back and she’s out of the recovery room.

Everything seems to have worked out fine.

Except, it didn’t.

She woke up and found the wrong side of her body in bandages. The operation that had to be performed on the right side of her leg was wrongly done on the left side.

The vice president for health care quality at Beth Israel said in reference to this incident,

“For whatever reason, the surgeon simply felt that he was on the right side of the patient.”

So, do you know what being wrong feels like? It feels like being right.

How often do you find yourself wrong about any idea you’ve had? If you’re like most people, you’re answer is not very often.

It’s the same with the beliefs you hold about your life. Like, everything happens for a reason. God has punished me because I have done something bad in my past life.

All these beliefs are so integrated in your system that you hardly question them anymore.

When certain beliefs occupy your mind for years, it’s hard to debate them and see beyond it. Even if you’re wrong, you feel like you’re right.

You feel like that surgeon from Beth Israel.

And that’s a problem. Because soon enough, we operate a patient on the wrong side which feels the right side.

Now, you might ask,

What’s Wrong With Being Right (All The Time)?

You might have a lonely childhood which has caused you to believe that any friend you ever have is going to be a dickhead. As an adult, you don’t have a social circle and feel as lonely as you felt when you were 6.

Now, if you don’t get rid of this belief, it’s going to harm you and your well being. And you’ll waste a whole lot of time confirming this false belief (because, hello, confirmation bias is a monster).

You’ll search for more certainty. You’ll want that feeling of “rightness” so you’ll attract people that screw you up.

See what you just did? You dug your own grave for your social life by holding on to a stupid belief.

Why did you do that? Because you didn’t want to be wrong. Because you didn’t want to accept that what you believe was a mistake.

You’ve spent most of your life trying to avoid making mistakes.

But you know, no matter how hard you try, there’s no escaping.

You thought you’re going to marry your childhood sweetheart and live a perfect life together, but something else happened instead.

You thought you’d be happy with this job, that promotion, 500,000$, but something else happened instead.

You thought things will never work out in your 20s, but something else happened instead.

This internal sense of rightness is often not a reliable guide to the real world.

And if you close your hand, clutch these beliefs and refuse to let go, they’ll get released as a hurdle to your progress. Their heads will float in between reasonable and meaningful conversations.

Why do you want to be constantly right about everything, anyway?

Why It Feels So Good To Be Right

There’s a difference between being wrong and realizing you’re wrong.

When you’re wrong but don’t know it yet, you feel like you’re right.

But, what do you feel when you realize you’re wrong? Embarrassing. Scary. Stupid. Unworthy. Uncomfortable.

Who would want to feel that, right? But, who associated these feelings with making mistakes?

Of course, you. Your classmates laughed at you when you shouted 2+2=5 and you refused to forget it. Everyone judged you when you screwed up. So you that’s what realizing you’re wrong is supposed to feel like.

The one who’s wrong is always the loser.

And the one who is right gets attention. The one who is right is intelligent. The one who is right has all of it figured out.

Being right is addictive in itself. When you’re right about something, your brain releases adrenaline and dopamine, which is an out of body experience.

It feels so good that the next time, we want to be right again.

But instead of getting addicted to this feeling, we can approach things with another chemical.

Oxytocin, the love hormone. 

If you go towards things with an open mind, completely rejecting the assumptions you’ve built up, you can allow oxytocin to work its magic.

Instead of going, “Hey buddy, you’re wrong” with a bitch face, take a deep breath.

Then you might say,

“Maybe I’m wrong. I’ve never thought of it this way before.”

You should get started with the basics. The basics actually are the most overlooked, yet the most important part of getting started.

Questioning Your Core Beliefs

I have a friend who recently told me that he believes that money is everything, at least for him. It’s his alpha and his omega, the beginning and the end of every problem.

When I started a healthy discussion about this with him, he backed out. He just shrugged his shoulders and went “Meh.”

I wondered why wouldn’t he want to see the world in another lens, another viewpoint, another perspective. Doesn’t it feel refreshing to do that?

He told me he’s been everywhere. And what he has realized is that he’s special, that he’s not meant for all this mediocrity.

Do you recognize the core beliefs he holds on to here?

  1. Money will give me happiness
  2. I’m not average

Core beliefs are beliefs that control how you see your life, how you see others and how you see the world.

In the above scenario, my friend sees the world in bank accounts, others as mediocre and himself as above average.

All of us have certain core beliefs that we hold on to. Ironically, the most common core belief is “The one who’s right is the winner, the one who’s wrong is the loser.”

Now, some of these core beliefs can be useful (“Everything should be tested with logic and rationality”), some of them can be vague (“Everyone has a passion”), and some of them can be self-limiting (“Everyone is a dickhead so I shouldn’t make friends”).

I want you to think of a belief that you hold in all these three categories, right now.

Done? Great. Write them down.

Ask yourself now, “When was the last time that I checked on this belief? Is it still applicable?”

Some of your beliefs might not even make any sense to you. You might get shocked at some. It might surprise you how they have made your decisions for you all along. 

Talk to someone who wouldn’t share the same belief as you wrote. Listen to them with an open mind. Read a book of an author whose opinion you disagree with.

And if it’s a self-limiting belief that has stemmed from your childhood or a traumatic incident, get rid of it. Question it. Edit it ruthlessly. Why do you hold on to it? Who told you this? How long have you been believing this? Are your decisions affected by this belief? Have you been seeing the world with this preconceived notion? And finally,

Can you improve this belief to a new idea, a better one?

“Wow. I’ve never seen it this way before. Maybe I’m wrong”, you’ll say.