Sunday, 2 December 2012

Little is achieved when we pursue goals that are too general and vague. Devoting time to grand theories and unattainable goals is never a good use of your energies

Unless you love to do things for no reason and work for free, you belong to those who expect to receive adequate compensation for their efforts. It does not have to be money, since humans do a million things to help each other without payment, but fair enough, we all want to see concrete results and a minimum of gratitude.

Groups of all sorts welcome those who want to give a hand. Since there are conflicting views about which direction is best, lots of efforts are devoted to discussing where to go and who does what. To the thousand organizations that call for your support, a new one is added every day.

When it comes to pursuing abstract objectives, it is up to you to decide how much time and resources you wish to invest. If you possess a generous heart, you will never lack opportunities to share what you have. Problems are everywhere and seem to multiply by the hour.

Strangely enough, despite massive efforts and dedication, little is achieved when we pursue goals that are too general and vague. You might argue about percentages of improvement, but still, the alleged solutions remain mostly invisible. Trouble persists and alternatives stall, to the extent that one could doubt if anything is being done at all.

Checking propositions thoroughly should never be seen as a sign of disrespect. If we ask for proof of what has been achieved so far, we might be regarded as cold-hearted, but when things are not clear, raising questions about methods and means is perfectly appropriate.

On the other hand, when we focus on our business or profession, things seem to get better at an amazing speed. Products are made, services rendered, invoices sent, and customers content. Companies grow or, at the very least, become more efficient. On many occasions, we don't need to advertise to gain credibility, since this is something that we earn through out daily work.

Before contributing to this or that new initiative, is it not fair to ask if our support is going to make any difference in the result? Is it not rational to remain sceptical when facts are inconclusive? A man cannot be expected to believe any story that he is told. Most of us expect paths to have clear destinations.

My point is that devoting time to grand theories and unattainable goals is never a good use of your energies. Experience shows that the best way to move someone to your views is to let your actions speak for themselves.

The most effective use of our resources seldom comes from following other people's agendas. To accomplish our chosen work and goals, that's what we are in this world for. As Confucius put it so well, "teachings are worthless without personal example."

For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book about how to be rational  "The 10 Principles of Rational Living"


[Image by lifacolor under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]

Why hedonism and stoicism don't work. Rationality is the basis of correct decisions. The key to sustained personal growth. Empty pursuits cannot still the hunger for happiness. One single goal for the rest of your life

Traditional behaviour models are crumbling in our midst. Old morality is taking the blame for current problems, although often through spurious argumentation. Never mind. Ethical decay has reached such an extent that many parents have given up all attempts to provide moral guidelines to their offspring. 

Rationality is the basis of correct decisions

Where are we headed? Should we conclude that principles are relative? That happiness is unattainable through individual action? That success is more dependent on luck than on personal effort? To answer these questions, we must point out the connection between personal effectiveness and happiness.

Rationality establishes the basis for making productive decisions and developing valuable skills. Even in an unfavourable environment, individuals who possess strong values and motivation grow more effective with each passing day. Principles are not luxuries, but practical tools that enable progress and achievement.

Logic and consistency are the keys to quick learning and rapid implementation. A well-organized mind absorbs information more effectively than a mind affected by anxiety. Ethical certainty nourishes psychological stability and personal productivity.

The key to sustained personal growth

Sustained personal growth relies on universal ethical principles. Virtues such as openness, tolerance, and honesty render individuals efficient and self-confident. Prosperity and happiness result from consistent action in pursuit of sensible goals. Nobody can predict the future accurately, but no matter how difficult the situation becomes, rational individuals will do better than average.

There is too much noise in the world and too many offers compete for our attention. We cannot accept every proposal that promises to improve our condition. Focusing our efforts on becoming more effective is a simple way to increase our chances of leading a more satisfying life.

New fashions that entertain your spirit for a while will distract you from important matters. We all want to experience the fresh before it becomes stale, but do you want to waste your days chasing the latest novelty? Leading a chaotic life is self-destructing. Without focus and personal effectiveness, there can be no real happiness.

Empty pursuits cannot still the hunger for happiness

Overcharging our agendas and accelerating our life is the equivalent of a sugar-coated sedation. The pursuit of faster results makes no sense if those are irrelevant to our long-term goals. Actions that contradict our plans and ambitions rarely produce beneficial consequences.

Empty pursuits cannot still human hunger for happiness. Leading a meaningful life requires consistent ethical values, long-term plans, and effective implementation. The link between personal effectiveness and happiness cannot be denied.

The life of the Ancient Roman writer Titus Livius (59 BC-17 AD) provides a good illustration of this point. When Titus Livius turned thirty-five, he looked back at his life and realized that he had not accomplished much. Like many Romans of good family, he had enjoyed a solid education, read widely, done some travelling, and also a little writing.

He had tried his hand intermittently at everything and achieved pretty much nothing. Since his life lacked purpose and ambition, Titus Livius felt ineffective and unhappy. He asked himself if he should continue living in the same way. Was there something that he could do to give meaning to his days?

Why hedonism and stoicism don't work

The prevalent philosophies in Ancient Rome, stoicism and hedonism, did not provide an answer to his questions. Hedonism encourages man to live for the pleasures of the day and ignore long-term consequences. Stoicism seldom provides other contentment than the quiet acceptance of misfortune.

We do not know what made Titus Livius change his ways, but we do know the results. Instead of continuing to pursue random interests, he conceived a wide-ranging project that would take him decades to accomplish. Instead of wasting time in abstract speculation, he fixed himself an ambitious goal and figured out how to accomplish it.

By the time he turned thirty-six, he had already formulated how he was going to spend the rest of his life. He would write a History of Rome unlike anything ever written before. He would speak not only of facts, but also of heroes. He would recount not only events, but also the values that had inspired them.

Titus Livius' plan comprised researching hundreds of documents and writing 150 books, an enterprise that nowadays would keep busy a complete university department. He did most of the work himself and it took him four decades.

The importance of formulating one single goal for the rest of your life

Apparently, he was very happy devoting his time to such a demanding undertaking. Such devotion to a single long-term purpose is essential to improve a man's personal effectiveness and psychological well-being.

When Titus Livius died, he was 77 years old. His only regret must have been that he had not started his project earlier, since he only managed to complete 142 books out of the 150 that he had initially planned.

Do you have similar objectives and plans in your life? Have you established long-term goals for yourself? Do you have a strategy that consistently favours your personal growth? Are you becoming more effective at what you do day after day?

For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book about how to be rational  "The 10 Principles of Rational Living"


[Image by Fede Ranghino under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]