21 Easy Hacks to Simplify Your Life

“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!  I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.” – Henry David Thoreau

Originally written by Leo Babauto and published on Zen Habits

If you’re trying to simplify your life, it’s best to follow the four simple stepsI’ve outlined before — it’s just the simplest method.

But sometimes life gets in the way, and you need a workaround, some way to get past your usual obstacles and to trick yourself into keeping things simple.

I use these “hacks” myself (in this case, “hacks” refers to workarounds or tricks to reach your goal), and I’ve found them to be effective in many cases. Please note that you might have read some of these once or twice (or thrice) on this blog before, but I thought it would be a useful resource to gather them all into one post.

Also, don’t try to implement all of them — that would be far from simple. Not all of them will apply to your life anyway. Pick one or two and try them out.

Simple tricks to simplify your life:

  1. Three-box decluttering. If you’re trying to declutter a room, drawer, shelf, desk … use three boxes to quickly sort everything. Just quickly go through each shelf or drawer or flat surface at once, putting things into three separate boxes: Trash, Donate, Maybe. The first two boxes are obvious … the Maybe box is for stuff you’re not too sure about — you can put this in storage for a few months and decide later. Put everything else — the stuff you love and use — back neatly.
  2. Create a no-distractions zone. This is great for when you want to do some focused work — which is just about every day for most of us. Create a zone with no distractions — no phones, no email, no co-workers or kids or spouses, nothing on the walls, no IM or Twitter, no web surfing. Just the tools you need to do your work and nothing else. You could also create a time within your schedule for this distraction-free zone — say 8-10 a.m., for example. No distractions within that block of time. You can do email and phone calls before and after, but not during. I like this hack for when I need to do some writing but have a hard time concentrating.
  3. Create a short-list. This is for the big-picture simplifying. If you’re having a hard time getting your life to something truly simple, create a short list of things you love doing most. This should be 4-5 things. For me, that’s writing, reading, running and spending time with my family. Your short list will be different. Then, try to eliminate everything in your life that’s not on the short list, to make room for the things you love.
  4. Deflect all requests for a week. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, make the decision that you will not say “yes” to any new requests this week. If you get a new request, politely decline. If it’s a request you can’t decline, tell them you’ll get to it next week because you have some projects you need to finish this week. Then pick one or two or even three projects (depending on their sizes) and focus on finishing them this week. You can worry about new stuff next week. Repeat this hack when needed.
  5. Go schedule-less. This works well if you’ve been over-packing your schedule. Try this: set a policy that you won’t schedule any appointments. This won’t work for some people who have mandatory meetings, but if you control your schedule, you can tell people, “I’m sorry, I don’t make appointments anymore. Call me on that day and we’ll see how things are going.” Leave your day wide open. At the beginning of the day, pick a few things to focus on and try to get them done. If you need to meet with someone, call them and meet.
  6. Single-task. This is good for those who tend to be all over the place. I’ve talked about it many times before: don’t allow yourself to switch between tasks. When you’re working on a report or writing an article, don’t do anything else. When you’re processing email, get to empty and do nothing else. One task at a time … finish the task … move on to the next. Try this for one day, focusing on it completely for that day. If it works for you, try it again the next day.
  7. Start your day with peace. I love this one, because it’s so easy to implement and yet it can have such a powerful effect on your day. When you first rise, do something that is calming and peaceful. That might be running or walking, having a quiet cup of coffee with a book, watching the sunrise, meditating or yoga … whatever works well for you. It can be 10 minutes or an hour, but find some peace in the morning and use it to calm you throughout your entire day. Read more.
  8. Eat only 7 things. If you’re trying to be healthful, but are having a hard time navigating complicated diets, try this hack to simplify things. Limit yourself to non-packaged foods. Eat only seven things: fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein, lean calcium, beans, nuts, good fats. Nothing from a box. This will require that you cook your food, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Read more.
  9. Go paperless. This works great for certain types of jobs — mine, for example. It won’t work for other jobs. But if you can do it, you can save time filing, save time searching for stuff, save space, simplify your office, and save a few trees to boot. First, insist that everything be sent via email or through online documents. Then create a filing system that works for you. Personally, I like to keep things online, and just archive and search rather than creating a complicated hierarchy of folders, but you might prefer a more traditional system on your hard drive. Do what works best for you. For those things that can only be sent via paper, scan and toss. Try to limit the scanning, and request that things be sent electronically.
  10. Go media free. If your life is filled with information overload, and you find little time to do the things you love to do, consider eliminating media from your life, at least temporarily. This includes cable TV, DVDs, newspapers and magazines, Internet news and the like. Now, I’m not saying you should eliminate the things you love. For myself, I would never eliminate reading books, for example. You might love a certain TV show — in that case, eliminate everything else. You can go media free for a week to see if it improves your life, and then consider extending it for longer. This hack won’t work for everyone, but I enjoy it.
  11. Limit yourself to 3 tasks. If your to-do list is long and overwhelming, pick three tasks you want to do today — important tasks that aren’t just urgent but actually have a long-lasting impact on your life. Focus on getting these three tasks done before anything else. If you finish early, you can either call it a day or get some bonus tasks done. Read more.
  12. Limit yourself to one project. How many projects are you juggling right now? If there are too many, you might be limiting your effectiveness. Instead, focus on one project right now, and put the others on the back-burner. Try to get that one project done as quickly as possible, and then work on the next one. Read more.
  13. 5-sentence emails. This works well if you spend too much time writing emails. I got the idea from Mike Davidson, who advocates limiting each email to five sentences or fewer. This forces you to keep your emails brief and to the point. It limits the amount of time you use doing email. And it forces you to decide what’s important in each email. I generally follow this rule (though I break it from time to time) … and if you get short emails from me, you now understand why.
  14. 30-day rule. This is a fantastic hack for those (like me) who have trouble with impulse buying — that great enemy of simplifying. The rule is that if you want to buy something, you have to write it on your 30-day list, with the date that it was added to the list. After 30 days, if you still want it, you can buy it. This doesn’t apply to necessities such as groceries … which helps you distinguish between wants and needs, a great skill for simplifying.
  15. Only wear a few colors. I actually do this, and it helps me simplify my wardrobe. I basically wear only black, blue, grey and green, with some browns thrown in now and then. This means that it’s very easy for me to match my clothes, and I don’t need a lot of clothes. You’ll have other colors you love to wear — build your wardrobe around them. This won’t work for people who love having lots of clothes in a wide range of colors, but for myself, it keeps things nice and simple — and I don’t like thinking about clothes anyway.
  16. One in, two out. When you bring something into your house, you have to get rid of two things. The normal rule is one in, one out, but somehow that never seems to work — things still accumulate. Instead, get rid of two things and things will stay simple.
  17. Work four days a week. Of course not everyone can set their own schedule, but if you have that luxury, limit yourself to four days a week — 8 hours or less. You might even set it to 6 hours if you can manage that. And then make it three days. But how can you work only four days if you currently work 5 and are overloaded as it is? It’s funny, but you can somehow make it work. It’s a well-known law that our work expands to fit the time we give it … and the flip side of that is if you shrink the time, you will shrink the work to fit the time. If you only have four days in a work week, you will pick the most important tasks. You will get the work done that needs to be done, and you’ll naturally eliminate the rest. You’ll set a schedule that works. You’ll delegate and outsource and automate and eliminate. And you’ll have an extra day off. Try it and see — I bet you can manage it.
  18. Retire early. This is a radical hack, but it can work for some people. In fact, it’s worked for many. Simply set an early retirement date (maybe even next year!) and force yourself to save up the money you need. Take a mini-retirement if necessary. Then go back to work and save up for your next mini-retirement. Or set your early retirement in five or 10 years, and then never go back to work. It sounds unrealistic, but if you look at it this way, you can save the money you need to retire. It means forcing yourself to make choices — do you want to spend impulsively now, or retire early? If you cut back on spending you can save more. Live simply and frugally and invest the difference. Make more money in the short term so you don’t need to work as much later.
  19. Limit storage space. Do you tend to save everything? Have tons of stuff in storage, in closets or attics or garages or cupboards? The less storage you have, the less stuff you’ll save — which will save you the stress of having to go through all that storage to find stuff, to organize stuff, to maintain stuff, to get rid of old stuff. A good example is my desk — I work on a table with no drawers. This means I don’t have all the usual stuff in a desk, and forces me to keep things simple. You can apply this to all areas of life if you like.
  20. Staunch your information flow. Similar to the media fast, you can cut back on the amount of information coming into your life. Do you currently have tons of emails coming in? Find ways to reduce them — unsubscribe to mailing lists, ask people to stop sending you joke or chain emails (or block them from your inbox), automatically filter things you don’t really need to read, pre-empt common questions with an FAQ. Do you read a lot of blog feeds? Unsubscribe to those that don’t give you value. Do you read a lot of news? Pick one news source instead of five.
  21. Send only five emails a day. I did this for a little while and loved it. I would pick five important emails to respond to, and that was it. The rest would be delayed or deleted. I ended up prioritizing, and while some people didn’t get a response, I also didn’t spend all my time in email. It freed me, and made me realize that I don’t have to respond to every email — people will make do.

“Reduce the complexity of life by eliminating the needless wants of life, and the labors of life reduce themselves.” – Edwin Way Teale

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17 Small Things To Do Every Day To Be Much Smarter

Written by  and originally published on LifeHack.

Intelligence is flexible and there are a lot of things to give it a daily boost. For smart thinking your mind needs 3 things:

  1. To be trained in thinking processes
  2. To have plenty of information
  3. To focus on a problem or idea

For example, Thomas Edison was able to think of his light bulb because:

  1. He was a trained logical thinker
  2. He knew a lot about electrical engineering
  3. He focused on solving a problem

Here are a bunch of things to do every day to help your mind to think smart.

1. Drink 2 glasses of water within 30 minutes of waking up

Since you’ve been asleep for hours, your body has not gotten water for 6-9 hours. Water is needed for the filtration of waste products and fluid balance. Two big glasses of water offset the fluid deficit you had from sleeping. Studies on kids (study 1, study 2) show that drinking more water increases their ability to complete mental tasks. Make sure your brain is not dehydrated at the beginning of the day already.

2. Read a book summary during breakfast

Reading books is great, but breakfast is far more suitable for something shorter. Instead of reading news articles that have little impact on your life/intelligence, read best selling book summaries. You can find summaries by:

  • Googling your book title + summary, for example “7 Habits of Highly Effective People summary”
  • Use a summary subscription like Blinkist or getAbstract

3. Listen to stimulating podcasts/audiobooks during your commute

Even if you spend only 10 minutes on your bike like I do, load your phone up with intellectually stimulating audio. Good sources could be:

  • TED talks (their app lets you pre-download audio so you don’t eat your mobile data)
  • Blinkist has some of their summaries in audio form
  • Audiobooks you purchased
  • Podcast of your favorite authors

4. Drink green tea while working

Where caffeine makes many people anxious, green tea (especially Matcha tea) contains l-theanine. This aminoacid causes an increase in alpha brain waves in the brain:1-s2.0-S0924224499000448-gr3In practice this means that where coffee can induce anxiety, high quality green teas cause a relaxed focus without inducing sleepiness. This is also why l-theanine is available as a supplement to aid in relaxation and increasing cardiovascular health.

5. Take naps during the day

Napping helps your mind refresh. It’s been shown that napping during learning increases learning speed. Your mind has a rhythm that determines when it gets sleepy and when it needs sleep:Daily-Rhythm-Sleep-Wake-CycleAs you can see on average people feel more sleepy than usual between noon and 4 PM. This is a perfect time to have a nap, and will increase your alertness and productivity for the rest of the day. Personally I’ve has good results with post-workday naps too (around 6 PM).

6. Don’t take sugar during the day

In fact, if you can cut it altogether. But if you can’t for whatever reason, just make sure not to have it during times where you need to focus. Sugar highs and the following lows are not good to keep your brain functioning smartly. What does work very well are fatty acids. Try to switch any sweet stuff during lunch for something more substantial like fish or eggs.

7. Do social media / meme websites only a couple of times a day

The brain adapts to the information you throw at it. If you bombard it work non-stimulating and fast switching information your focus will get destroyed. Keep your brain functioning on a higher level by throwing stimulating things at it. If you feel the need to procrastinate, set a timer  and don’t get lost in mindlessly scrolling.

8. Play games instead of watching series or movies

Watching tv is a passive activity. Your brain is consuming information, but not processing or interacting with it. Substitute or supplement this entertainment with gaming. A 2014 study showed that even a simple game like Super Mario has visible impact on brain plasticity (flexibility). Another piece of research covered by Forbes shows the same. Actively engage your brain where you can, instead of letting it slumber passively.

9. Read a book instead of watching tv

Similar to playing games instead of watching tv, reading a book is an active exercise for the brain. Where watching video entertainment is a passive consumption of information, reading a book requires your brain to actively construct mental images of what you are reading.

10. Do some programming

Programming is a great way to learn to think logically and in patterns. Coding used to be hard to learn but with free websites like Codeacademy and free/paid platforms like Udemy it is easy and fun to learn. Consider it the next level of puzzles. As an added advantage learning to code in your free time increases your employability in the job market.

11. Watch TED talks while cooking

Preparing dinner is a great time to catch up on some cutting edge developments in Technology, Education and Design (ted.com). It turns what would otherwise be downtime into a fascinating and stimulating block of time. It’s like watching the news, only you are watching the world’s most inspiring individuals talk about their work.

12. Do some simple exercises during the day

The body and the mind are strongly connected. Physical fitness helps the brain function well. You don’t however have to go to the gym every day to benefit from this (though you can of course). Doing some push-ups throughout the day and walking or skipping up some stairs has a great impact already. Try to do something physical every hour or so, even if it’s just getting up, stretching a little and tensing all your muscles as hard as you can for 5-10 seconds.

13. Spend time with someone smarter than you

Habits are socially contagious. It is a well known fact in science that obesity for example spreads through social networks (link to research). The habits and thinking patterns of those you spend time with rub off on you. Expose yourself to people who are smarter than you in order to benefit from them.

14. Talk to people who disagree with you

Get into (friendly) discussions with people who disagree with you on any topic. Arguing with them allows you to either:

  • Sharpen your arguments
  • Be convinced that you are wrong

In both cases you win. In the first you convince the other person by out reasoning them, and I the second false logic you previously had is not eliminated.

15. Go for a walk in nature

Walking through nature has a number of benefits:

  • There is more oxygen since plants produce it
  • The human mind calms down when surrounded by plants
  • Walking helps your blood circulation

Having a walk in a park at lunch time can greatly help you work smartly for the rest of the day.

16. Carry a notepad

Great minds like Leonardo Da Vinci always carries a notepad. They used it to jot down ideas, sketches and questions they had for later review. Having a little book on you and writing down interesting things can greatly help you train your curiosity and logical thinking.

17. Take 10 minutes at the end of the day to plan tomorrow

By planning tomorrow the day before you begin the day with a plan. This allows you to work much more productively. Many people are busy all day, but not actually productive. A great part of being smart is knowing that hard work is inferior to smart work. Pick your battles in advance.

9 Ultimate Bucket List Road Trips

9 ULTIMATE BUCKET LIST ROAD TRIPS

By Jessica Valentine via Flying the Nest

9. Grand Canyon, Arizona to Moab, Utah

Distance: 1387km (862 miles)

Starting at the iconic Grand Canyon, hit six classic national parks on a ten day epic road trip through the best canyons in the Southwest.

Road_To_Grand_Canyon_by_ArnoFR

8. Route 66, Illinois to California

Distance: 3210km (1995 miles)

The mother of all road trips, Route 66 is probably the most well known drive on this list. This historic road find thousands enjoying this vintage highway every year and is one we are hoping to cross off our list very soon!

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7. The Atlantic Ocean Road, Norway

Distance: 8.3km (5.2 miles)

This picturesque road connects the western fjord islands between Molde and Kristiansund. The road zig-zags across numerous islands connected by causeways and bridges. If we ever find ourselves in Norway, you now know where to find us.

Picturesque Norway landscape. Atlanterhavsvegen

6. Great Ocean Road, Australia

Distance: 243km (151 miles)

This iconic Australian road crosses the southeastern coast, built between 1919 and 1932 dedicated to soldiers killed during WW1 (making it the world’s largest war memorial)! The road passes a number of ecosystems ranging from rainforests and beaches to sheer cliffs, including famous natural rock formations.

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5. Karakoram Highway (China to Pakistan)

Distance: 1303km (810 miles)

Also known as the Friendship Highway, this ancient Silk Road runs from the Chinese city of Kashgar to the Pakistan city of Abottabad. Built between 1959 and 1979 by the governments of China and Pakistan, it is the highest paved international road in the world, crossing the Khunjerab Pass at an elevation of 4693m (15,397 feet)! The highway is known for its eco-adventure hotspots, passing ancient petroglyphs, rivers, glaciers and huge mountains.

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4. Ring Road, Iceland

Distance: 1335km (830 miles)

Iceland has crept up into our top 10 countries we need to visit (and Game Of Thrones may of had something to do with this). Ring Road circles the entire island, from its snow-capped mountains to volcanic craters! Just google images of what you will see along the drive and you will see why it has made our list.

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3. The Dalton Highway, Alaska

Distance: 666km (414 miles)

Starting at the Elliott Highway, north of Fairbanks and ending at Deadhorse near the Arctic Ocean, this drive is perfect for those that want more of a remote road trip. The paved road ends only about an hour out of Fairbanks, as you travel the rest of the way on packed gravel, passing jagged peaks and mighty rivers! Just remember to watch out for wolves, bears and reindeer!

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2. Milford Road, New Zealand

Distance: 120 km (74.5miles)

Are you  big Lord of the Rings fans? Same! Driving along one of the most scenic routes on the plant, Milford Road is full on cliffs, snow-capped summits, waterfalls, breathtaking valleys. Look out for The Avenue of the Disappearing Mountain, an optical illusion causes the approaching mountain to get smaller rather than bigger!

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1. Amalfi Coast Road, Italy

Distance: 60km (37 miles)

From the natural beauty of the mountainous landscape and clear seas, to the bright villages straight out of a story book, this breathtaking road is number 1 on our bucket list! The beauty of the region is insane, we can not wait to see Amalfi with our own eyes.

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What is Wrong with our Culture – Alan Watts

By Sam Austin via Live Learn Evolve

THIS IS WHY OUR CULTURE MAKES PEOPLE UNHAPPY

Expressions of physical love are far more dangerous than expressions of physical hatred.

Alan Watts, another prescient sage of the ages delivered this profound message decades ago, but unfortunately it resonates more accurately than ever. This thought-provoking five minute video gives a powerful insight into how our social systems may have unconsciously misdirected us. A conception that seems to explain the collective insanity of our relentless economic pursuits, that are depleting natural resources and human freedoms at an exponential rate. Perhaps this is why depression is increasing so rapidly, it will be the 2nd most disabling condition in the world by 2020, behind heart disease.

Watts believes the madness stems from our culture valuing hate more than love.  “Expressions of physical love are far more dangerous than expressions of physical hatred,” Watts says.  “And it seems to me that a culture that has that sort of assumption is basically crazy.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

The Bookshop

Italo Calvino‘s 1979 book, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, is a novel that sees you, the reader, attempting to buy and read Italo Calvino’s novel, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler. In one particular passage of the story’s first chapter, the following types of books are listed as you navigate a bookshop, eager to locate Calvino’s.

(Source: If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, via Michael Vinson; Image viaMorBCN at Flickr.)

  • Books You Haven’t Read;
  • Books You Needn’t Read;
  • Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading;
  • Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To The Category Of Books Read Before Being Written;
  • Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered;
  • Books You Mean to Read But There Are Others You Must Read First;
  • Books Too Expensive Now And You’ll Wait Till They’re Remaindered;
  • Books ditto When They Come Out In Paperback;
  • Books You Can Borrow From Somebody;
  • Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too;
  • Books You’ve Been Planning to Read for Ages;
  • Books You’ve Been Hunting for Years Without Success;
  • Books Dealing With Something You’re Working on at the Moment;
  • Books You Want to Own So They’ll Be Handy Just in Case;
  • Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer;
  • Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves;
  • Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified;
  • Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time To Re-read;
  • Books You’ve Always Pretended To Have Read And Now It’s Time To Sit Down And Really Read Them;
  • New Books Whose Author Or Subject Appeals To You;
  • New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Not New (for you or in general);
  • New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Completely Unknown (at least to you)

22-year-old Hunter S. Thompson tells you the meaning of life

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In April of 1958, Hunter S. Thompson was 22 years old when he wrote this letter to his friend Hume Logan in response to a request for life advice.

Thompson’s letter, found in Letters of Note, offers some of the most thoughtful and profound advice I’ve ever come across.

April 22, 1958
57 Perry Street
New York City

Dear Hume,

You ask advice: ah, what a very human and very dangerous thing to do! For to give advice to a man who asks what to do with his life implies something very close to egomania. To presume to point a man to the right and ultimate goal— to point with a trembling finger in the RIGHT direction is something only a fool would take upon himself.

I am not a fool, but I respect your sincerity in asking my advice. I ask you though, in listening to what I say, to remember that all advice can only be a product of the man who gives it. What is truth to one may be disaster to another. I do not see life through your eyes, nor you through mine. If I were to attempt to give you specific advice, it would be too much like the blind leading the blind.

“To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles … ” (Shakespeare)

And indeed, that IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this! Think of any decision you’ve ever made which had a bearing on your future: I may be wrong, but I don’t see how it could have been anything but a choice however indirect— between the two things I’ve mentioned: the floating or the swimming.

But why not float if you have no goal? That is another question. It is unquestionably better to enjoy the floating than to swim in uncertainty. So how does a man find a goal? Not a castle in the stars, but a real and tangible thing. How can a man be sure he’s not after the “big rock candy mountain,” the enticing sugar-candy goal that has little taste and no substance?

The answer— and, in a sense, the tragedy of life— is that we seek to understand the goal and not the man. We set up a goal which demands of us certain things: and we do these things. We adjust to the demands of a concept which CANNOT be valid. When you were young, let us say that you wanted to be a fireman. I feel reasonably safe in saying that you no longer want to be a fireman. Why? Because your perspective has changed. It’s not the fireman who has changed, but you. Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.

So it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day? How could we ever hope to accomplish anything other than galloping neurosis?

The answer, then, must not deal with goals at all, or not with tangible goals, anyway. It would take reams of paper to develop this subject to fulfillment. God only knows how many books have been written on “the meaning of man” and that sort of thing, and god only knows how many people have pondered the subject. (I use the term “god only knows” purely as an expression.) There’s very little sense in my trying to give it up to you in the proverbial nutshell, because I’m the first to admit my absolute lack of qualifications for reducing the meaning of life to one or two paragraphs.

I’m going to steer clear of the word “existentialism,” but you might keep it in mind as a key of sorts. You might also try something called Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre, and another little thing called Existentialism: From Dostoyevsky to Sartre. These are merely suggestions. If you’re genuinely satisfied with what you are and what you’re doing, then give those books a wide berth. (Let sleeping dogs lie.) But back to the answer. As I said, to put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.

But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors— but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal. In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires— including a deeply ingrained need to function in such a way that his life will be MEANINGFUL. A man has to BE something; he has to matter.

As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES. In doing this, he is fulfilling a need (giving himself identity by functioning in a set pattern toward a set goal), he avoids frustrating his potential (choosing a path which puts no limit on his self-development), and he avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it (rather than bending himself to meet the demands of that which he seeks, he has bent his goal to conform to his own abilities and desires).

In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life— the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.

Let’s assume that you think you have a choice of eight paths to follow (all pre-defined paths, of course). And let’s assume that you can’t see any real purpose in any of the eight. THEN— and here is the essence of all I’ve said— you MUST FIND A NINTH PATH.

Naturally, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. You’ve lived a relatively narrow life, a vertical rather than a horizontal existence. So it isn’t any too difficult to understand why you seem to feel the way you do. But a man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.

So if you now number yourself among the disenchanted, then you have no choice but to accept things as they are, or to seriously seek something else. But beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life. But you say, “I don’t know where to look; I don’t know what to look for.”

And there’s the crux. Is it worth giving up what I have to look for something better? I don’t know— is it? Who can make that decision but you? But even by DECIDING TO LOOK, you go a long way toward making the choice.

If I don’t call this to a halt, I’m going to find myself writing a book. I hope it’s not as confusing as it looks at first glance. Keep in mind, of course, that this is MY WAY of looking at things. I happen to think that it’s pretty generally applicable, but you may not. Each of us has to create our own credo— this merely happens to be mine.

If any part of it doesn’t seem to make sense, by all means call it to my attention. I’m not trying to send you out “on the road” in search of Valhalla, but merely pointing out that it is not necessary to accept the choices handed down to you by life as you know it. There is more to it than that— no one HAS to do something he doesn’t want to do for the rest of his life. But then again, if that’s what you wind up doing, by all means convince yourself that you HAD to do it. You’ll have lots of company.

And that’s it for now. Until I hear from you again, I remain,

your friend,
Hunter