My Philosophy of Life (emphasis on productivity), Essay
My Philosophy of Life (emphasis on productivity), Essay
Jan 07, 2010, 04:32 PM
Group: Basic Member
Joined: Nov 11, 2007
Member No.: 14344
The Raw Experience of Time
“The man I am greets mournfully the man I might have been.” - Hebbel
Time is the most precious resource we have. Time is limited, cumulative, and consequential. We only have about 100 years to live given that we live our lives in a way that optimizes for longevity. Each action, event, and behavior takes a certain amount of time out of our small bag of fate. The tragic thing about time is that just as in things financial, time is cumulative. Each extra minute a day we waste, ads up to six hours a year, and sixty hours a century. Think about this for a second.
That extra minute you spend a day on yet another fruitless e-mail check, yet another facebook poke, yet another glance in the mirror, a trip to the fridge. It all adds up to 60 hours at the end of your life. Doesn’t seem so insignificant now does it? Just think how much things could be done in these mere 60 hours you’ve spend on procrastination or “killing time”. No, you didn’t just kill a minute, you killed 60 hours. You are not just a trivial thief; you are a serial murderer of your own life. Productivity is the foreground of our lives.
Sixty Hours. Sixty hours is approximately how long it takes to study an entire textbook of science. Sixty hours is 25 excellent movies, 120 delicious meals, 6 productive days, 60 sweaty work outs, 360 delightful cups of tea, 12 engaging novels. It is sixty hours that could be spent with a loved one, changing the world, solving a problem, helping a friend in need, writing a book, learning the wonders of our world, teaching, educating the ignorant, or just catching a nap. We give up so much more than a minute, and none of it will return. It is gone, and it is going now.
Just a minute is never just one minute.
Hedonism, Cognitive Psychology, and Emotional Reasoning.
“Anyone holding this hapless view of life as nothing but a pursuit of pleasure would have to doubt every moment of such a life, if he were to be consistent.” – Viktor E. Frankl
The peculiar aspect of this concept is that it is not something complex. But why do we keep ignoring it? Why do we keep ignoring the cumulative aspect of time? Why is it so hard to resist checking the email yet another time? How can our brilliant minds get us to the moon and yet fail to accommodate for something so simple? The short answer – evolution. We incidentally did not evolve in the environment of so much distraction. Our activities were limited to survival, maintenance and reproduction; there is not much variety there.
A more elaborate answer is that we are constantly irresistibly tempted by short term pleasures over long term gains. We are designed for instant gratification. We didn’t have to think much further than the day. It wasn’t until agricultural evolution some 15 000 years ago that planning became important. We earn for happiness, something we believe to be an intrinsic goal. We constantly make decisions with erroneous faith in our competence to tell what is best for us, yet as research shows, we are but strangers to ourselves. We constantly overestimate and underestimate long, as well as short term utility of chosen activities. It is the greatest trick of our motivation system. What better way to motivate you towards an action but make you feel as if it is something much more desired or undesired than it really is?
We find ourselves in a curious dilemma: we crave that sweet, melting taste of ice-cream, and yet we want to stay fit and healthy. In the moment of passion, ice-cream seems like a good idea, and yet within moments of eating it, we feel guilt and regret – and we should. Were these few minutes a day of pleasure really worth the long term heart disease, sluggishness and obesity? Did we overestimate the short term gains, and underestimate the long term consequences? It is all too familiar.
When do smokers quit smoking? When the consequences cease to be long term, and become immediate, such as when they get a smoking related disease in form of cancer, hypertension, or shortness of breath. If you ask a smoker whether it was worth it, he will of course say ‘no’, but why couldn’t he foresee the undesirable consequence in the future? The information is more than available. He simply could not accurately project his future state of emotion. He vastly underestimated the suffering.
Why is it that when we study for exams, we start so late? Why do we constantly feel that the pleasures of procrastinating are worth that torturous stress and sleeplessness before the exam? Of course they are not, and yet we constantly overestimate and underestimate, at least on emotional level. We feel that to start studying is going to be something unbearable; we feel the weight of everything we have to do; we think of the whole endeavor as if it all has to happen in one moment, crushing us to our knees. But once we start studying we realize that it is not so bad, in fact all we have to do is read one sentence at a time. We didn’t get crushed after all. Instead, we feel a kind of accomplishment that is worth so much more than what we feel while on a procrastination trip of popcorn and pointless TV-shows.
So how do we solve this irrational tendency? Thankfully for us, our brains were designed with an ability to override emotion with reason. It is one of the core principles of CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral-Therapy). The tendency to assume how we feel to be an accurate representation of what is, was, or will be is called Emotional Reasoning – which is a type of a cognitive fallacy we are consistently guilty of.
We feel a desire to do something, and so we infer that we should do it, which is at the core of such phenomena as overeating and procrastination. We feel like studying is going to be too much, and so we infer that we should avoid it. We feel safe that we will never get cancer, which is something that only happens to other people, not us, and so we smoke with a peace of mind. Yet in each case, our emotional state is far from accurate representation of the world, as well as emotional states in the past, present, or the future. Just because we feel that we should eat ice-cream, doesn’t mean we should. Just because we feel safe about smoking, doesn’t mean it is. Just because we feel overwhelmed by what we have to do, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start, and doesn’t mean it will be as bad as we predict it will be.
The interesting aspect of emotions is that quite often if we ignore them, and follow reason instead, the emotion will change to accommodate the new behavior as if it was what we wanted to do all along. If you don’t feel like exercising and start exercising, the hormones will change your mind and you will not even understand why the hell you didn’t want to start to begin with. If you force yourself to smile for long enough, you will start smiling genuinely. How odd, isn’t it? Once again we are but strangers to ourselves.
It will not be as good, or as bad as you think.
Knowledge and Complexity: The Theory of Aesthetic and How It Will Improve Your Life.
“It is better to be unsatisfied Socrates, than a satisfied swine.” - John Stuart Mill
Person: Okay Eugene, you told us about the cumulative nature of time and some psychological reasons for why we are unproductive, but why should I strive to be productive? After all, wouldn’t it just make me a sterile, robot-like being, completely devoid of any humanity? Wouldn’t it make me a hamster on a wheel, a corporate hubris on a ladder?
Fair enough, these are legitimate concerns. But you got it all wrong! You are the hamster on the hedonic wheel, chasing the ever paling pleasures; you are the robot, following the programming of your selfish genes. This is the rebellion!
We are fortunately or unfortunately designed to be miserable if we chase happiness, or rather the caricature of happiness that we think is paved with pleasures. This will not work. Pleasures quickly pall, especially unproductive pleasures. More than that, we will be constantly met with disappointment of our expectations because it will never be as good as we think, and the world will not always land itself to how we want it to be.
The solution is to throw yourself into something much bigger than yourself, into something much more permanent and meaningful. In my case I chose a scientific and philosophical life. But a life of activism, art, music or literature could work just as well. Why would it be a better alternative? Because the degree to which we enjoy aspects of life is directly proportional to our knowledge and experience with it.
I was fortunate enough to have many musician friends and over time I noticed that their joy for music is heaps ahead of mine. What I perceive to be just a melody with certain beat and spaces between notes, to a good musician, it is also a time period, a historical background, a tone of sound, an amplifier and guitar used, a style of playing, the biography of a musician, the complexity of the piece, the motivation for the song, the influences and subtleties. To him it all combines into one whole experience, of which I only hear a small part.
Why do scientists claim to be in awe of the world on a much deeper level than an average human being? Because they know so much about the world; because they don’t just see the beautiful scenery, but how it is intricately interwoven through evolution, how the laws of physics from the smallest particles to the birth of stars create majestic galaxies. They know the history and struggle of ideas, progress, and individual giants on whom we now so proudly stand. To them a concept is so much more than a sentence in a textbook that you need to memorize for a test. To them- it is the divine comedy of the world.
Why do philosophers enjoy debating so much? They don’t merely hear a sentence with a certain semantic; they hear the logical implications, assumptions, fallacies, and they hear what you didn’t say for the sake of persuasion. They can appreciate the intricate ways of language use, the clarity of words, and the struggle for truth. To them it is so much more than simply persuasion.
Knowledge and complexity breeds aesthetic, and thus provides curious, awe-inspiring joy. A life of virtue, of which productivity is a fundamental part, is a life of enjoying who you are, and the wonders of the world.
Just What Is A Waste of Time?
“Work spares us from three evils: boredom, vice, and need”. -Voltaire
Let us define a waste of time. For something to have a potential attribute of wastefulness, it must be a limited resource and there must be assumed preferred or best uses of the resource in question. In a case of time, there are only two relevant aspects of its utility. It can be used for bringing about a positive emotional state in yourself or other people in the present, or future. Or it can be used for less immediate, or what I would call consequential uses, such as bringing about technology, social change, ideas, etc… These bring about positive emotional states to yourself or others only indirectly, and might not be immediate or even short term.
From one point of view, it is a sin to not enjoy a beautiful sunrise, a company of our beloved, just for the sakes of enjoying it. But is this the meaning of our life? Psychologists had shown that an average man experiences disproportionally more displeasure than pleasure on an average day, so hedonism cannot possible be a justification for our life. The only way out is to consider the deep interwoven nature of our society. We are not alone. Meaning must partially come from others for us to lead a satisfying life. More than that, we quickly get desynthesized to pleasures we do have, so by psychological principles, for them to remain pleasurable they must be far in between.
Given the two aspects of a good use of time, it is evident that the best use of time is when time is spent being productive consequentially, as well as yielding positive emotional state, both in the present and future, for you and for others. An example would be reading a good work of non-fiction which yields the positive emotion of curiosity in the present, the personal consequence of being more educated, and thus making better choices, and consequently, since your choices effect others, yielding a total net utility for everybody.
An important aspect to consider is the degree to which an action fulfills the criteria. One can for example read a pop work of literature such as “Angels and Demons” by Dan Brown, which not only has absolutely no consequential value to you or anybody else except for the publisher and the writer, but the hedonic utility minor at best. This is a prime example of what I would consider to be a waste of time; there are just so many better alternatives that not only meet all the criteria for a good use of time, but do so to a larger extend. Just because something has a utility, doesn’t mean it’s the best utility one can have in the moment, although emotion, through caricature, make it seem as if it is, at least initially.
“61: If, in your course, you don't meet
your equal, your better,
then continue your course,
There's no fellowship with fools.”
“62: 'I have sons, I have wealth' --
the fool torments himself.
When even he himself
doesn't belong to himself,
how then sons?
-Dhammapada pt.V, Fools.
One of the greatest wrongs of poets, dreamers, novelists, and directors throughout time is the misleading representation of romantic relationships. They often fail to acknowledge that it is our expectation, our ideal, not the reality. It is our all too familiar over-exaggeration of the pleasures they bring, and underestimation of the suffering it causes.
Indeed, the first stage of love, what we call “the honey-moon faze” is unquestionably pleasurable, but is it worth it, is it desired? Let us analyze is through our second-order desires, namely – do we desire to desire it? Contrary to what most people believe, love in not an addition to our intellect, it is a shutting down of large number of critical faculties towards a person. It is semi-unconditional acceptance, that is true, but is unconditional anything really rational? It is not all pink elephants; it is also something that in the brain-imaging, as well as behaviorally, closely resembles an addiction. And addiction means, first and foremost a strong want, as opposed to joy.
Within a very short period of time, the hormone soup of Love becomes a regular relationship. This is precisely when it is very important to be with a person who shares the values outlines hitherto. Otherwise, it will just become a constant struggle, a cognitive dissonance infested enterprise, which will cause more harm than good. Unfortunately, just as with any drug, the longer you artificially prolong the delusion of soul-mate in this stage, the harder it will be to quit. In fact, I am convinced that this is precisely why long term relationships are usually a history of break ups, fights, and constant dissatisfaction, with inevitable making up, followed by mere moments of joy and back into suffering again. Just as smokers, they feel the detrimental nature of being with a wrong person, yet find themselves unable to quit, although they may rationalize it, especially if they are intelligent and ethical. What they don’t recognize is that a strong want does not mean that it is good for you; it is a prime example of emotional reasoning, which is how our genes try to control our lives to extend genetic fitness. People feel a strong urge, and conclude that it must be something desirable, otherwise what rational reason is there to want it to begin with? The problem is that our motivation system was not designed with happiness or productivity in mind.
If the person does not share the values outlines above, or your version of it, then, I cannot stress this enough, stay the hell away. Don’t build delusions, illusions, and projections, this is precisely how you end up where you never wanted to venture. Just like you cannot sniff cocaine casually, you cannot allow yourself to let a relationship with a wrong person to be built. You may make rationalizations such as ‘it is better than nothing’, or even ‘this IS the perfect partner’. I have a long history of observing those close to me lacking the needed cognitive and social psychology background to go around it. Be careful.
As research shows us, we have a kind of genetic set-point for happiness. We think that winning a lottery will make a long term changes to our happiness, that ending up on a wheelchair will have tremendous negative effect to our wellbeing. As shocking as it sounds, research shows that it won’t. Not for you, not for anybody. In fact within few month of the occasion, people are back feeling exactly as they felt before the event. They adopt, and it merely becomes the usual state of affairs. How many times have you told yourself that once I buy that new computer or a car, ‘I will be so much happier’, only to adapt to the next new thing, and feel no better than before?
Why we feel relationships are any different? The society tells us so, but science tells us otherwise. Just as an expensive car has a price, so do relationships. After the honeymoon faze, you may end up feeling the same as you did before you found your partner. Most people do. Except for you now have a whole bag of responsibilities and potential hardships, and of course to be fair - pleasures. But are these pleasures something that requires a serious relationship? We can get sex, company, and any number of its benefits with friends and non-serious relationships, without the negatives of a partnership. Besides, sex is just one of these vastly over-exaggerated pleasures. You can thank our culture.
One aspect of relationships constantly ignored is the enormous time toll it takes. Relationships are costly, and can only be justified if your partner has a largely positive effect on you, namely that he or she provides joy as well as intellectual, ethical, and fair exchange of ideas and favors. If he or she doesn’t, than it is not fair to you to stay with that person. Why should you give so much more than you receive? The time spent on a wrong person is not much different from wasting your time on a pointless TV-show. As I outlined before, for it to meet a criteria for a good expenditure of time, it must also yield consequential benefit to you, and not just weak hedonic utility. I’ve lost count to how many highly intelligent people I know are constantly murdering their time away with inferior partners. You wouldn’t buy a lower quality car for the same money as a much better one, than why would you spend the precious resource of time with inferior partners? Don’t settle.
Solitude is vastly over-dramaticized. Plenty of self-fulfilling people are perfectly happy. Just don’t dwell on what you don’t have, focus on what you do. I think inability to be alone is a sign of much worse psychological problems than lacking a partner. Everyone should be perfectly fine being single and only think of relationships as a nice benefit to an already satisfying life. Focusing on how lonely you are, is not only false, as you probably have plenty of friends, but highly irrational. It is equivalent on dwelling on how you are not a millionaire. Rich people are in the same set-point of happiness boat as you. Get of the hedonic wheel, and enjoy life.
“Human, all too human” –Nietzsche
Given the psychological phenomena relating to decisions and happiness outlines above, what implications does it have on us as consumers?
Since we know that by and large, buying anything new will not yield long-term happiness, we must apply different criteria. The one I use is the potential of an item to help me bring consequential changes to my life and others, for example its ability to make me more productive. An example would be a second monitor, a computer, internet, a table to write on, etc… All these items are not reliant on the illusion that it will make for a happier life.
On the other hand, avoid items that will only bring distraction to your life, namely for purposes of pure entertainment, such as a large TV, or a video-game system. They will not only make you more unproductive, but fail to make you any happier.
Jan 10, 2013, 06:13 AM
Group: Basic Member
Joined: Apr 04, 2012
Member No.: 34146
Mathematical Equalities of Productivity in Marriage and in Finance.
Marriage: (-60 - -60) + (2.4 * 2.5) = 6; Fully productive marriage alliance with offspring & wealth.
Finance: -60(2.4 - 2.5) = 6; single, separated or divorced business Counter Parts with or without offspring.
Since people were originally meant to live forever losing 60 hours (-60) as a single person each to become married in a productive life of family and finance never would hurt anyone. However when finances help break up a marriage then there is hell to pay!. 6 sides of a product story is an inscribed hexagon within a circle of life.
The Magistrate of Productivity is Brother Rutherford. He is a number 6 and a Judge in the scheme of things.
The Deeper Meaning of Things.
PJS Standing By LORD>.
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