Monday, 5 December 2016
A little philosophy can carry you a long way: About the importance of adopting a rational perspectice
A wrong perspective can block more of your initiatives than any external obstacle. If your vision is short-sighted, you will not perceive anything beyond the immediate. If your vision is blurred, you will get lost in speculative discussions. If you look too far away into the future, you will lose touch with your environment.
At the turn of the 10th century, thousands of peasants in Europe believed that the world was coming to an end. Their incentive to work diminished sharply and, as a result, agricultural output decreased. High food prices led to the fulfilment of their prophecy, since many families starved during the winter that inaugurated the second millennium of our era. A wrong perspective annihilated part of the population.
Drug addicts and compulsive gamblers embody an extreme type of short-term mentality. Their world is restricted to what will happen in the next hours or minutes. Their minds do not register the physical and financial consequences of their actions. Their numbed sensitivity ignores danger signals. Their grasp of reality has shrunk to the minimum. Warnings cannot reach their ears.
Are the above examples valid? Do you consider self-evident that man needs a proper perspective of life? If everybody agrees with this conclusion, is the whole discussion pointless? Frankly, I don't think so.
Lack of perspective
If you really believe that the issue is settled, you might be making a fundamental mistake. The truth is that, every year, millions of individuals destroy their lives by embracing losing propositions.
People quit hard-earned positions and abandon established professions in pursuit of unworkable projects. Sometimes, individuals risk their health or physical survival by getting involved in losing ventures. Occasionally, such delusions affect a large segment of the population.
These tragedies happen so often that we have grown desensitized to them. This phenomenon is so apparent that we have lost the capacity to see it. Lack of perspective wrecks innumerable human lives. The seriousness of the problem is deeper than we are willing to admit; its size, bigger than statistics can register.
Discard what doesn't work
Leading a prosperous and happy life requires that we discard ideas that don't work. Trying to accomplish the unworkable serves to fuel vanity, not well-being. Nobody will be helped if you attempt to accelerate change beyond what the environment can take. In contrast, many people will complain if you try to impose what nobody else wants.
The advent of the internet and low-cost mobile communications show the scope of change that we can expect to see within a generation. Repetitive tasks can now be carried out in a faster and cheaper manner. Some business sectors have been favourably affected; others have become obsolete. In addition, the web has extraordinarily facilitated the spread of knowledge.
A wise man establishes his goals according to reason. High ambitions are commendable, but grandiosity should be avoided. Persistence is necessary, but it should not turn into obsession. Attempts at improving the world will remain fruitless if they are not accompanied by a sound dose of realism.
Choose your goals wisely
What are the consequences of this principle? How can we prevent our goals from becoming destructive? How can we avoid devoting efforts to seemingly important causes that later turn out to be worthless? Here are some practical ideas that you can use:
Quantify the time: Goals that lack a temporal frame have less chances of success. Saying that you want to become a writer is meaningless if you do not come up with a plan. How many years are you going to devote to writing? How many books do you intend to produce? On which subjects? How long will you need to complete your first manuscript?
Define the space: Objectives that are not circumscribed to a specific territory tend to be less attainable. Saying that you want to end hunger in the world denotes a good heart, but lacks a detailed plan. If you want to do development work to help poor people, are you going to focus on Latin America or Africa? On which part of Africa? English- or French-speaking? What specific project do you want to implement?
Assess the resources: For instance, if your goal is to make a living trading the financial markets, you should make a list of the necessary steps and how much each one is going to cost you. How long a training will you need? What is the price of the courses? Are you willing to work as an apprentice in order to learn the business? How much capital do you need to make a living trading stocks or commodities?
A workable plan
The world is going to change during your lifetime, but you should not entrust your future to random events. When you make plans, adopt a prudent perspective. Quantify the time, define the space, and assess the resources.
Leave vanity to the foolish and focus on what you intend to accomplish. A workable plan is worth a million discussions. If you wish to waste your life, devote yourself to debating what people will be eating two centuries from now and what type of cars they will be driving. On the other hand, if you want to attain a specific goal, walk fast but keep your steps small. A little philosophy can carry you a long way by helping you adopt the right perspective.
[Image by seier+seier under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]
For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books