We all drudge through life trying to survive, but why? What is so important for survival? What makes any of this life worth living? Is it a biological imperative to keep breathing for as long as possible? Or is there something we ought to be doing with our lives that motivates our survival?
The human condition seems to impress that there is a reason for our existence; a reason to survive if you will. We put ourselves in a survival mode in order to live by what we consider to be “good” or “right”. Many of us never really think about what that means and instead just hope to make it through the day without stress.
A steady pressure over time has shaped humanity into creatures compelled towards survival. The same evolutionary pressure has shaped our limited capacity for reason and logic, and that limited logic tells us that there must be a reason for our survival. We plan goals and imagine the desired outcomes. We are goal-oriented to fill an evolved need for a purpose in our life. Whether we are conscious of the goals or not we carry beliefs of what our life is suppose to be…
You plod though life towards your goal and whether you like it or not that goal becomes your purpose. If the goal has not been achieved then there exists a dissonance between your reality and your purpose; a continuing source of stress that will push you towards your goal. On the other hand, if you have achieved your goal then you’ve also achieved your life’s purpose; this can be depressing if you’re so successful that you achieve all of your goals!
This goal-oriented behavior results in either stress or nihilism. I propose an alternative to the goal-oriented life that is hopefully stress-free and nihilism-free!
Time and Pressure
Given enough time and pressure we have evolved into the goal-oriented and stressful species that we are today. Within an individuals life, all of their accomplishments are the result of discreet actions towards a goal. The goal is often emergent from the day-to-day actions. Most goals change over time, evolving to better suite our needs from the actions we’ve taken.
I would argue that you should never be concerned with a desired outcome or goal. There is no perfect state of existence in life but there is an ideal flow that is readily achievable. Your goals are often expressions of your own ideals or virtues and they tend to change. Ironically, the closer you get to your goal the more you learn about it and hence the more the goal will change.
Imagine a river rock that is perfectly rounded and perfectly smooth. This perfectly round and perfectly smooth stone represents a goal. In our goal-oriented perspective a rough non-rounded stone would be a source of stress compelling us to chisel and polish until it’s “right”. But a river rock wasn’t chiseled or polished; it was merely shaped over time by the pressure of the rivers water.
Many people let the water dry up and stare at rough stones planning just how round and smooth they’re suppose to be and never really make any progress. If you let the water flow you’ll always make progress.
Rather than focus on the specifics of your goal, focus on the time and pressure in your life and simply maintain that ideal flow. Improve with every step. Continuously refactor your life. Love every moment of the ebb and flow of this precious life. Remove focus from the goal and instead focus on the time and pressure. Make your life better, and better, and better without every worrying about what it’s suppose to be. You’ll end up with more accomplishments than the goal-oriented person would know what to do with.
An aside: Time and Money
Time and money are non-comparable. Money can be the result of time and pressure, but do not be so foolish as to compare time with money. Any fraction of time is worth an infinite amount of money. Or as one of my friends recently discovered: Time > $