Friday, August 08, 2014

Week 32 - On Wants

"Somewhere along the line, that train always gets derailed."
- David Wong, 5 Ways You're Sabotaging Your Own Life (Without Knowing It)

So we had dinner this past week with one of the management folks which, interestingly, turned out to be the most interesting one I've experienced so far.

A lot of non-work things have been talked about (and by a lot I mean we spent over three hours in the restaurant), most of which I've been having a think about over the past few days.

I've known (and have acknowledged this) this for a very long time now - most days I daydream about things I'd rather do over the actual thing I'm doing (ie. work). Maybe I'm hoping to rationalize a lot of things (as I often tend to do), but the article linked above sort of hits the mark for the rather demotivating thoughts I've been having lately.

Please, do yourself a favor and read that article.

1. Do Not Focus on How to Accomplish Something Instead of Focusing on Why

Asking people to tell something relatively obscure about themselves has always been an interesting conversation starter. It's a good way to open up topics about people's interests, as well as find common ground on which everyone involved could relate to. Our dinner wasn't any different, so I'll start with that.

I know that the three or so people (and kajillion bots) who regularly drop by this blog are probably sick of it by now, but my answer was obviously something related to writing as an outlet.

The follow-up question was something along the lines of how I did it. Looking back, I'm guessing that my answer to how I did it was irrelevant as compared to why I did it. The (ironic) thing is that I can't really pinpoint a why. I could give different answers on different days, and any of them could be the truth on that particular day.

I guess people put value on things that are personally important to them. I guess that's why people seem to be so absorbed by the things they do, even if it doesn't make much sense to the people around them. Others may see an obsession but maybe people just have an affinity for different things. Humans are an incredibly subjective lot, even if it's something we hate to admit.

I wish I could apply that to other parts of my life.

2. Think About What Part of You Will Die

This bring up the question of time or, perhaps more accurately, of how other people seem to always have a staggering amount of things on their plate in addition to the doldrums of day-to-day life (compared to us).

I guess the best way to look at it is by looking at ourselves along with our priorities, and coming to terms with the fact that everything we do is inherently important to us whether we would care to admit it or not.

I'm not saying spending time chasing after our own shadows is a bad thing - in fact, that's how we learn more about ourselves and the world around us. I'm saying everyone has exactly the same amount of time given to them in a day to do whatever - eat, sleep, work, play - and it's a matter of choosing what we feel (and I mean really feel, without the influence of others) is worth a chunk of our time.

I remember our colleague telling us how much free time he suddenly had when he cut out television from his life years ago. Blame spending years on shift work, but it's something I can personally attest to.

If I was made to choose again, I think the price of no longer watching TV was well worth the time it freed up for other more (personally) meaningful things.

3. Do Not Pretend You'll Magically Become Someone Else and;
4. Do Not Focus on the Whole Instead of the Next Step

I guess the next two points go hand-in-hand.

It's obvious, but it bears repeating: there is no shortcut. There never has been, there never will be and there is no point in blissfully hoping for one.

It's all nice and well to say that everything begins with the first step (because it's true) but I guess it's also worth knowing that all of life is a continuous series of things to do right until our part in the Great Story ends.

Life is a personal project and it's the most flexible piece of work we'll ever do because we own the itinerary - most of which is a blank slate.

If there's something that's worth wanting bad enough to pursue as a goal (see the first point), we will always somehow find the time to do it amidst all the other things we have to do (see second point) and actually start working towards it instead of wishfully thinking we'd attain it someday (see point three) even if it takes a good long while (see point four).

5. Do Not Lie to Yourself About What You Actually Want

I guess David's last point is the most important. He said that at the heart of every unfulfilled ambition in life lies the confusion on the meaning of the word 'want'. He said that we use it in two very different ways - as a statement of intended action (as in "I want to save for a vacation") and as a statement of general preference over something we have no control of (as in "I want world peace").

I remember the first day of November last year. I wanted to write, and so I sat down and wrote. By the time the day ended the counter stood at over ten thousand words - roughly a fifth of the minimum required to finish the event. It felt good knowing that I had twenty-nine more days to work with the last eighty percent and I'll be damned if I fail. No, it felt right.

I guess that's what's both terrifying and fascinating when David said that as time goes on, everyone gets what they want.

We place personal stakes on the goals that we truly feel are genuinely important to us as a person. Maybe, just maybe, that's how the world (both inside and outside our head) is conquered.


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