Wednesday, 22 November 2017

What is the point of having principles? How rational living can spare you expensive mistakes

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Wouldn't life be wonderful if we never made mistakes? Imagine how much money you could save through the years if you never purchased any of those products that look so good before you take them home and later turn out to be useless. How much effort would you spare if you could perform any undertaking without mistakes?

The function of principles is to condense lessons from the past that we can apply to our present. Rational guidelines cannot guarantee success in your endeavours, but will reduce the risk of failure and minimize any ensuing damages.

What are the principles of rational living and how can we use them in our daily life? From the work of Aristotle, Epictetus, and Spinoza, I have extracted the following three guidelines, which I consider the backbone of a rational life:
  • Use the law of cause and effect to your advantage: Understanding that reality works according to cause-and-effect constitutes the difference between civilized men and savages. Despite influence of family and society, each individual is the principal agent of his own fate. Accepting responsibility for your actions means taking charge of all aspects of your life that are under your control. 
  • Take good care of your health: Each individual has control of the food he consumes and determines how much he exercises. Few ignore the crucial role that nutrition and physical fitness play in maintaining good health, but how many men and women actually take action on the basis of such knowledge?
  • Identify your lifetime goals: Barring major accidents, humans can expect to become at least 70 years old in many areas of the world. Research has repeatedly proven that setting long-term goals plays a decisive role when it comes to achievement. 
Drifting from day to day, from one occupation to another, does not require clear objectives and avoids the friction generated by those who pursue ambitious goals. On the other hand, drifting is often associated with anxiety and psychological insecurity, since it fails to provide long-term perspective. Only well-defined goals allow man to concentrate his resources wisely and make the best of his life.

Rationality demands us to strike an adequate balance between our habits of the present and our expectations of the future. If you care little about being healthy and are willing to spend your life's savings on hospital fees, there is no reason why you should adopt healthy habits in your daily living. If that is not the case, then you know what to do.

The three principles above can be complemented with other recommendations, such as:
  • Accepting catastrophes philosophically and taking swift action towards recovery
  • Learning from mistakes in order to improve your effectiveness
  • Befriend honest people and ditch the rest or, at least, minimize your contacts with aggressive or nasty individuals
  • Actively protect your privacy and possessions
  • Stand up for your rights and do not give up too easily when you meet opposition
Accepting cause-and-effect as the overriding philosophical truth will turn you into a much more effective and happier human being. Applying rational principles to your life will bring you the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your thoughts and actions are aligned with the essence of reality.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image: photograph of classical building; photo taken by John Vespasian, 2017

For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books

 
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Here is the link to a media interview just published:

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Why you should choose to live according to rational standards

Contrary to what is commonly predicated, individuals extract massive advantages from telling lies and pretending to be convinced by them. Most people are perfectly conscious of the falsehood of silly social conventions, but still, opt for maintaining those practices.

When corporations adopt unethical policies, experience shows that most employees will shrug their shoulders, and pretend that everything is fine. In those situations, a company's revenue projections will become exaggerated, its profits fake, and its bookkeeping out of touch with reality. A few months later, such company will collapse.

Nonetheless, would you call someone irredeemably evil if he chooses to behave in a manner that allows him to keep his job, at least for a while? It is a fact that millions of men and women are complying daily with questionable demands that they could avoid if they so wished.

Next time, things will be better

This sort of stories appear so frequently in newspapers that we almost take for granted that people will learn from experience. Next time, we tell ourselves, things will be better. After every scandal, we love to believe that manipulations and corruption will not happen again. Unfortunately, our hopes never come true, and shortly after, another scandal comes to light.

What makes human beings engage in such counter-productive behaviour? How is it possible that we devote so much effort to lying to ourselves? The correct answer is not that people are fundamentally evil. The truth is much more complex than that.

There are three reasons that explain why so many individuals are invested in falsehood. Social convenience is the first, since it feels good to belong to the majority. Financial benefit is the second, since those who are accepting to look the other way will be often rewarded by their negligence. The third motive, fear of rejection, is perhaps the strongest.

An almost irresistible appeal

Each of those justifications possesses extraordinary appeal on its own. All three combined are almost irresistible. Nevertheless, history proves that, in the long run, pretence and manipulation will inevitably destroy those who employ them.

Philosophical and social progress are achieved only little by little, by taking daily steps, but even in the short term, there are clear signs that misrepresentations don't work:
  • Social convenience leads people to repress their best ideas. The habit of seeking conformity at all times deprives men of the strength to speak out their views and pursue their dreams. 
  • The financial benefits of lying, although sweet, tend to be short-lived. Schemes that look too good to be true will typically inflict heavy losses on people who engage in them.
  • In industrial societies, the negative consequences of rejection are wildly exaggerated. Nowadays, global markets are allowing innovators to find customers across the world even if their ideas are not appreciated by their own family, friends, and neighbours.
Independent thinking is difficult in the face of opposition, so what? Trusting the golden promises of social convenience will always seem the obvious choice at first sight, but blind conformity to other people's irrationalities will simply destroy your life. Choosing to live according to rational standards can prove hard at times, but constitutes the path to success and happiness.

Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com

Image: photograph of classical painting; photo taken by John Vespasian, 2017.


For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books
 

 
Free subscription to The John Vespasian Letter