Here is a summary of some additional questions that I have answered this week:
Focused and constructive action
QUESTION: Due to my personal and cultural background, I have had to endure substantial discrimination through the years. As a result, I have become demotivated and discouraged, reluctant to undertake any new initiatives.
ANSWER: Some people grow discouraged because, due to their personal and cultural characteristics, they feel unappreciated, or in any case, insufficiently appreciated in their current social environment. In some cases, it is true that those individuals can become very discouraged because they don't know how to overcome the problems they are facing. The solution to discouragement is to take focused and constructive action. I am talking only about undertaking the type of action that can really improve your situation on practical terms. Do not waste your time debating with people who don't appreciate you, and who never will. It is much more productive if you invest your energies in finding a better environment where you can deploy your talents, and get to know the kind of persons who will know how to value and appreciate you for what you are. Taking focused, constructive action is one of the principles of rational living.
Making consistent decisions
QUESTION: I have to take an important decision whether to accept a job in the Middle East or not, but I cannot make up my mind. On the one hand, the job offers a high salary and attractive benefits, but on the other hand, I pretty certain that I am not going to feel at ease in that relatively closed environment. Which should my driving criterion to make such a decision?
ANSWER: It is indeed surprising to see that people will often make critical decisions in a rather frivolous and uncritical manner. Years later, when the damage is already visible and mostly irreparable, these people are going to complain that they could not have known the consequences of their choices. Yet, this statement is seldom true. The primary reason why individuals make momentous mistakes is because they fail to apply rational principles in their thinking, not because they could not foresee the outcome of their actions, which is rarely the case. The best way to make decisions with self-assurance and accuracy is to weigh the advantages and disadvantages on the basis of rational values. For instance, if you are offered a job in a foreign country for a very high salary, but you are not enthusiastic about the prospect, you should probably drop the idea altogether and look for something better. The need to take consistent decisions, and make choices that take your long-term goals into account, is one of the main tenets of rational living.
The right path for long-term happiness
QUESTION: In our school, conformity is praised as a fundamental virtue, and pressure is exerted on the students to conform to the school traditions, both formally and materially. Since I have never been very good at dissimulating my opinions, my scepticism about such conformity is sometimes bringing me into trouble. How important is conformity for success and happiness?
ANSWER: While each individual is responsible for his own life, it is clear that some environments exert pressure on people to follow a certain career path, or to make some particular personal choices. This should not be regarded negatively in itself, since it is perfectly logical that parents want the best for their children, and try to steer them into a direction that, as far as the parents can see, offers good possibilities of success. The same can be said of choices in other areas of life. However, the essential question is not whether someone should or not follow the well-intended advice from his parents, or conform to someone else's benevolent directions. When it comes to determining whether you have taken the right path for long-term success and happiness, the essential question is whether that path is rational, consistent, and sustainable. The need to get those critical decisions right is one of the pillars of rational living.
Prudence and determination
QUESTION: Since a long time ago, I have adopted the habit of avoiding conflicts, opting as much as possible for doing my own thing without making a big fuss if someone disagrees with me, and systematically ignoring those who criticize me negatively. Am I doing the right thing? Should I instead show more assertiveness and engage in confrontation when my views are not respected?
ANSWER: Conflict, in particular of the psychological type, possibly generates more stress in the world than all financial and health problems combined. People who fight verbally with their neighbours, co-workers, and family members will frequently experience sleep difficulties, and other disturbances related to stress. Conversely, individuals who opt for doing their own thing, and pretty much ignore those who dislike them, tend to do very well in the long term. Psychological conflict is a bad business altogether, since it produces anxiety and stress that are difficult to heal. As the ancient Roman author Cicero put it so well: "Incerti sunt exitus belli," which means that, once you start a conflict, you can never be sure of how it will end. Irrespective of the correctness of your views, overheated emotions can undermined your health and peace of mind. As a general rule, the inexpensive approach to serenity is the most effective. Go after your dreams quietly but relentlessly. Pursue your long-term goals prudently but determinedly. The avoidance of unnecessary conflicts is one of the principles of rational living.
Reduce your worry, reduce your stress
QUESTION: Due to bad experiences in the past, I have become an overly preoccupied individual. Day and night, I tend to worry about my problems, which are numerous, and can never find the peace of mind that I would like to have. How can I minimize my fears and become more confident about the future?
ANSWER: You might not know this, but 33% of the population view themselves as overly stressed. They consider themselves psychologically vulnerable, and spend hours every week passing review to their problems, without ever finding good solutions. Indeed, these people would love to be able to look at the future with confidence, but their desire will only be fulfilled if they adopt a rational philosophy. The ancient Roman philosopher Seneca used to say that "nulla dies maerore caret," which means that, in human life, there is never a day without trouble. The key to maintaining your serenity and surmounting the obstacles on your way is to embrace rational living, adopt rational values, and establish your lifetime goals accordingly. If you want to regain your peace of mind and look at the future with confidence, you have to start by discarding all false ideas that promote nervousness and confusion. The adoption of consistent goals and values is one of the principles of rational living.
Are you wasting your resources?
QUESTION: I have difficulty concentrating myself on my long-term goals, and this is not a new problem for me. I am the type of person who massively enjoys socializing, participating in events, and doing sports, but I feel that I am not making the best of my life. How can you strike the right balance between productiveness and enjoyment?
ANSWER: When you observe high-achievers in any area of human endeavour, you are going to see people who do one thing exceedingly well. Those are individuals who have decided at a certain point to focus their energies on one particular area, and develop one particular skill to a level of perfection. In contrast, such levels of achievement are rare amongst people whose goal in life is simply to enjoy themselves. If you employ your time in random socializing, attending pleasant but unexciting social events, and doing sports for fun, chances are that you will lead an enjoyable life, but will not make the best of your talents. Yet, it is likely that one day you will utter the same lamentation as the ancient Roman author Plautus: "oleum et operam perdidi," which means that he considered that he had wasted his resources (his oil) and efforts without getting much in return. More often than not, people who pursue difficult long-term goals with passion tend to be happier than those who spread their time amongst many unconnected activities. Consistency of action is one of the principles of rational living.
For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living
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