Effective Living – Part 1 – What is It? (Components)

Hello, Readers!

On our journey so far, we’ve experienced a quick toss-me-in sort of approach to introducing some big ideas by exploring a framework for effective living. These were the 3 realms (Social, Physical, and Mental) in the Life Simplified series.

Then we took a step back to explore the big ideas that were covered in each (Clarity, Awareness, Deliberate Action, Intensity of Stimulus, Challenge, Connection, and Meaning). These ideas are fundamental and therefore were important to explore first.

Now we will take a brief pause to consider the bigger picture. I’ve alluded to it several times, and that is Effective Living. We will now begin a series on diving into the what, the why, and the how of Effective Living.

 

The Definition

Big Idea: Effective Living is a framework. It provides the foundation for Effective Action.

Basically: The framework of Effective Living is meant to remove irrelevant fluff in life.

Effective Living is a concept. It is an abstract idea that is meant to encompass bigger-picture ideas. Effective Living is a framework of taking Effective Action. The concept is meant to be considered generally, over all aspects and categories of your life.

Since Effective Living is a framework, it is meant to provide a comprehensive set of principles. The fluff and irrelevant details are removed. The focus is on exploration and on what is relevant to optimizing the human being in order to promote action that improves the individual, the species, and the universe in an objective sense.

If Effective Living is the abstract objective, then Effective Action is the concrete way of getting there. Effective Action is the individualized implementation of the framework, catered to you and your own personal objectives.

Simply put, Effective Living is living in alignment with nature, Effective Action is the personalized steps that you take in doing so. There is no finish line to Effective Living, it is meant as a lifestyle, a way of life, a philosophy, and a framework that provides a clearer way of looking at the world and making decisions. It is the long game with the bigger picture in mind at all times.

The premise of Effective Living is because we are conscious, we must learn how to live.

What Effective Living isn’t

Effective Living is not a claim on how you should live your life. It presented in a very broad and general way so that it can be freely and loosely applied in a way that is meaningful to you. A core idea of Effective Living is individualizing your experiences and other information that you encounter to you, so that it can best optimize your own individualized way of living. This framework takes into consideration the individual nature of every living thing.

It is not a religion, a cult, or a “movement”. It is simply the discovered ideas that I have found useful in living an effective life that promotes one’s ability to add more value to the world. Criticism and challenge is welcome to these ideas, the objective is truth, and truth can only be found when as many individualized perspectives are brought in to scrutinize as possible. This is just the initial first step to get the conversation rolling. Let’s explore, together.

Effective Living is not looking to others for answers, the emphasis is on exploring your own, unique, internal world. It is not listening to what society has to say, but instead, it encourages being skeptical and open-minded. Discover the assumptions that underlie your behaviors and make conscious what was previously unconscious, all in the name of promoting one’s ability to add unique value to the world. Effective Living aims to minimize external dependencies and encourages independence.

 

The Components

Big Idea: Any system is comprised of individual components that contribute to the goal.

Basically: Effective Living is a system that consist of, compact, individual pieces.

Let’s begin by understanding the components that make up Effective Living. These are the basic building blocks of the bigger-picture concept. They are the core tenets behind the Effective Living framework.

I will begin by listing them and then discuss each in turn. They are: Principles, Identity, Mindset, Meta, and Practices.

 

Principles

Big Idea: Principles serve as a foundation, from which more complicated ideas are formed.

Basically: Approaching complex ideas is best done through first principles.

Principles are the foundation of a thing, they provide the fundamental building blocks on which everything else in the subject is built on. A principle stands alone and is often the first discoveries in a field of knowledge. Principles are based on evidence, experience, and exploration, they are free of assumptions and have stood the test of time.

For example, you could consider first principles of human behavior to include things such as nutrients, water, and rest. These are the foundational motivators of most behavior and take priority when they are not in balanced (e.g. if you are hungry, food begins to be on top of your mind). Other principles of human behavior include safety and psychological needs.

Effective Living contains a set of principles, however there are 3 fundamentals that take priority over the rest. These fundamentals are Movement, Nutrition, and Rest. They are non-negotiable, every living organism has these in some way. Even plants have movement, they typically grow to face the sun and compete with things that block the sunlight and therefore adapt by bending in a direction that promotes more sunlight.

These fundamentals have support in ways other than just their abundance in nature. An intelligence of sorts is necessary for movement as can be seen in sea squirts. It is even likely that the brain evolved as a specialized machine for calculating movement. Sensory organs, such as eyes and skin, are a consequence to support this movement.

The level of intelligence that humans have could be the result of our lack of being the strongest or the fastest in the wild and therefore we had to rely on our ability to run long distances (thanks to sweat glands). This long distance running suggests traveling over various terrains and novel environments (since running in circles wouldn’t do us much good), this demands a lot of calculated movement and at the same time keep a lookout for dangers coming out of bushes. This demand for acuity could be the fundamental cause for our intelligence.

Nature itself suggests movement, from planets, stars, solar systems, galaxies, just the very nature of gravitational forces implies movement. Our developed concept of time even consists of movement, given by a direction.

This all implies a principle of life, which is the Principle of Adaptation, or the “Dynamic Principle of Life“. Everything is incremental, time moves forward, one thing builds on to the next. This principle will be explored in more depth below.

Due to more abstract principles of nature, such as energy balance and thermodynamics, when energy is spent during this movement, there must be some recouping of resources. This is done through nutrition, whether it is sunlight and water to a plant or food and water to animals. Something has to give energy to support the movement.

This raises an interesting question of what gave energy to the universe? A clear and certain answer can’t be given, but the concept of the “Big Bang” can account for it through the sudden explosion of a massive amount of energy that has continued rippling the universe into expansion ever sense. But where did this energy come from? A super computer’s enter key on a keyboard as someone started up a simulation that we call our universe? God? Some beyond fathomable principle of nature that goes beyond our universe and into other dimensions and parallel universes? I don’t know, certainly an interesting question to ponder.

As machines (e.g. your internal organs) operate, another principle of life comes up. This is the Principle of Entropy. Things tend towards chaos, simply due to the probability of order being incredibly low. This principle basically states that the things that operate to provide our capabilities to move (including the organs for digestion of our nutrition to give us energy), will experience wear and tear, requiring proper time away from movement, in the form of rest, in order to recover. This is especially true for the movement calculating machine that we call the brain.

If you are a living organism, you should take extra care to keep each of these fundamentals (Movement, Nutrition, and Rest) in balance and to continuously learn what that balance is. Don’t assume anything, which is another principle that we will explore further below.

How does this relate back to Effective Living?

Effective Living is all about living in accordance with nature. These are fundamentals that all living things share and therefore suggest that we should pay close attention to them in order to live optimally. When you address the core underlying principles of something, understanding begins to emerge. A problem is far easier to solve, as well as being solved long-term, when you address the root cause of the problem, when you dig down into the actual foundation from which everything else stems from. This relates to yet another principle that we will discuss below, the Principle of Conditionals. You can’t claim to understand a clock if you don’t understand the fundamental mechanisms of the gears. You can’t claim to understand any larger machine or system if you don’t understand the underlying simple machines that make it up.

Those are what are considered fundamentals. You can’t understand multiplication without addition, because multiplication is.. multiple-addition, or repeated addition. Math is full of building on principles and fundamentals to derive bigger ideas and this practice is why mathematicians are often very good at problem solving and understanding complex systems, they have developed the habit of deconstructing something into their components and finding the root cause. This is the Principle of Simplicity which will be explored further below.

We will now explore the principles that are useful in Effective Living. Due to their foundational nature, they have a lot of connections and relationships to bigger ideas such as those that we’ve explored in the Life Simplified series (e.g. Clarity, Challenge). These are principles that I’ve discovered to be useful during my own exploration, many more, I’m sure, are yet to be discovered. There may even be more compact ways of grouping the principles. Therefore, a further in-depth and concise discussion over life’s principles will be done at a later time.

The current order is based on how fundamental the Principle is. They are separated  in two sections, beginning with the most fundamental. Here is a list of each and a brief summary:

  • Principle of Simplicity
    • Perfection isn’t when you have no more to add, but no more to take away.
  • Principle of Good Enough
    • Diminishing returns begin to kick in when you violate the 80/20 rule.
  • Principle of Adaptation
    • Stress is the motivation for change in life. The body adapts to its environment.
  • Principle of Entropy
    • Things tend towards chaos. Maintaining balance is an active process.
  • Principle of Relativity
    • A change in perspective produces a different reality.
  • Principle of Perception
    • A change in interpretation produces a different reality.
  • Principle of Control
    • Know what you can and can’t control. Focus on what you can change.
  • Principle of Conditionals
    • Given a consistent set of factors, consistent results can be produced.
  • Principle of Probability
    • The future is ambiguous, discovering relevant factors isn’t always practical.
  • Principle of Balance
    • There is no one extreme that ought to be held indefinitely.

 

  • Principle of Exploration
    • Utilize creativity, curiosity, and an open mind to discover what life has to offer.
  • Principle of Reflection
    • Integrate what you discover into your being by applying careful retrospection.
  • Principle of Depth
    • There is always more. Focus on what level of abstraction is relevant.
  • Principle of Creation
    • Increase your value by producing something useful. Avoid consuming.
  • Principle of Action
    • Live life actively. The more you engage, the faster you adapt. Up the intensity.
  • Principle of Routine
    • Things come and go. Synchronize with the cycles of life and build your own.
  • Principle of Variation
    • Variation is the norm. The one constant in life is change.
  • Principle of Contradiction
    • No single interpretation works in all situations
  • Principle of Initial Conditions
    • Things that occur earlier on in the life of a system have the greatest influence.
  • Principle of Compound Impact
    • All life is incremental. Start where you are right now and build from there.

Principles to Life

These are worth diving in to, so let’s begin.

Principle of Simplicity

  • In other words:
    • Keep it simple. Simplify, simplify, simplify.
  • Supporting Evidence:
    • Chemistry and the fundamental elements of nature as building blocks. Everything can be broken down further.
  • Discussion:
    • Perfection isn’t when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away. Perfection is in simplicity. Expand, and then contract, which is to say, explore and then integrate. Build and then carve.
    • Complexity is the silent killer to all things, from business to fitness. It is why many people fail at trying to change their life, because they try to do too much at once.
    • Simplicity makes things more scalable, the brain becomes more efficient at the task, you are less intimidate by it, and it takes less resources to think about and do.
  • Practical:
    • Add things into your routine, get a feel for your options (80/20 rule or 37% explore/exploit rule applied as necessary), and then after the growth period, prune off what is excess weight (i.e. not necessary).
    • Cycle periods of expansion and contraction as necessary. Push hard, and then recover. Much like the “Discipline Missions” in the topic of Challenge.
    • Build (mental) models to understand the world, these are “good enough” representations that abstract (hide) away details that are not relevant for whatever purpose the model is currently serving.
    • What is the next smallest step you can take to remain effective? Avoid thinking about the big hair objective, and focus on the incremental steps that get you there. Aim for presence and quality with your movements, and not mindless and ignorant.
    • Deconstruct large problems as well as emotions. The power of acceptance, letting go, and avoiding resisting can be realized with breaking up a seemingly overwhelming emotion like hatred into its components like anger and jealousy. Handle the individual components of the larger emotion to better dissolve the larger emotion. Patience.
    • Break a large task into smaller tasks, from emotions, exercise, challenges, etc. All life is incremental, this too shall pass, all is temporary, but all requires time and small steps. Therefore, focus on what the next smallest step you can take is.
  • Top 3 Closely Related Big Ideas:

Principle of Good Enough

  • In other words:
    • Perfect is the enemy of great.
  • Supporting Evidence:
    • Evolution
  • Discussion:
    • It isn’t necessarily the “survival of the fittest”, but the survival of the good-enough. You just have to survive long enough and well enough to pass on your genes, you don’t need to be at the top of the fitness pool. Consider in another way, “fitness” could be considered in several variations, from fitness of social interactions to fitness of physical appearance. You may not look pretty, but perhaps you are really good at persuasion! Nature goes through many iterations to even make progress.
    • Your mind makes predictions about the environment in order to minimize pain and maximize pleasure and to increase chances of  survival. Deja vu is an experience where your mind fills in the gaps to an experience similar to one that you’ve had before and your mind confuses it for that past experience. It is essentially a prediction error.
  • Practical:
    • Aiming for perfection is exactly the opposite of simplifying. The pressure of such a large objective can easily overwhelm you and leave you confused of where to even begin. Instead, aim for balance. Focus your efforts on the 20% of inputs that produce 80% of the outputs. Focus on what is relevant. Recognize and avoid diminishing returns, but at the same time, don’t be afraid to explore to the depths of diminishing returns, as long as you learn and don’t repeat that particular behavior.
    • You are the easiest to fool, so be wary of fooling yourself in to believing that “you’re special” and that “this won’t apply to me”, or “this time is different”. If you can’t provide justification for why the 5th time of doing the same thing will work, then you probably should stop and recalculate. This is akin to gambling addictions. Be wary of this tendency.
    • If you have a habit of being closed-minded and enforcing your beliefs on the world despite evidence, then this can also lead to your mind filling in the gaps to promote you seeing what you want to see. A lot of distress and confusion can result from this. It is a nasty habit to get into.
  • Top 3 Closely Related Big Ideas:

Principle of Adaptation

  • In other words:
    • Life is Dynamic, it is ever changing, not stagnant.
  • Supporting Evidence:
    • Evolution
  • Discussion:
    • A principle that persists throughout all of life is the concept of adaptation. Stressors encourage nature’s attention and adaptations begin to take place.
  • Practical:
    • Expect change, it WILL happen, don’t build all of your skills in a specific domain, instead emphasize transferability in everything that you learn. Transferability is being able to apply knowledge from one domain to another. This is vital in being able to recognize how a previous experience you’ve obtained can be used in a future situation to make a more informed decision. This is a very important trait of intelligence.
    • Take action and calibrate. Avoid sitting around trying to work out 100% of the details, the future can’t be known, it is ambiguous.
    • Action is often best initiated with surrender. This means starting from a place of acceptance with resistance removed. This allows for the fluid nature of reality to be fully realized. Action from a place of rigidity promotes resistance and goes against this fundamental principle.
  • Top 3 Big Ideas that are closely related:

Principle of Entropy

  • In other words:
    • Things tend towards chaos.
  • Supporting Evidence:
    • Death. The wave of feelings and emotions. Weather.
  • Discussion:
    • Variation is the norm, therefore, by the definition of perfection, the probability of a perfect state being achieved is incredibly low. Your time is better spent on adapting and preparing for the chaos.
    • As time goes on, growth slows and decay quickens. Life is dynamic, many things in life follow a cyclical pattern, from the seasons to life itself. This cycle can be thought of like a wave, where as a particular pattern is cycled through, there will be a period of intensifying, then a point of climax, then a period of decaying. Things always change, variation is the norm. This wave-like pattern is especially true for emotions and feelings.
  • Practical:
    • The increase in chaos as time goes on is inevitable. Plan for obstacles.
    • Because things tend toward chaos, be vigilant. Don’t become oblivious to things such as your health and relationships due to work obligations, or else you may find unnecessary disability and pain.
    • The expectation should not be order, but disorder. It is safer to assume that things will get out of hand, that obstacles will get in your way.
    • Thinking of the cycles of life as a wave is useful because it sets the realistic expectation that there will be high points and there will be low points. You will feel great at times, and at others you will feel depleted. Learn to ride these waves and synchronize with them. Projects that you work on can even be thought to have this wave-like pattern, it is a property of any and all life, even the birth and death of a project at work. There is a ramping up, a climax, and a settling down. Anticipate these periods and plan accordingly.
  • Top 3 Closely Related Big Ideas:

Principle of Relativity

  • In Other Words:
    • One’s experiences are based on an individual and unique reference point. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
  • Supporting Evidence:
    • Optical and other sensory illusions. The fact that your feelings vary in a wave-like manner from moment to moment.
  • Discussion:
    • How you feel now is different than how you felt at some point in the past and is different than how someone else might feel, even given the same stimulus, which is due to the differences and various weights in the experiences that each individual acquired.
    • All feelings have a psychological component to them that scales the degree of its intensity in some way. For example, the more you resist the cold sensation of a cold shower, the more intense the experience will seem. This goes for comfort/discomfort and pain/pleasure. It closely relates to the idea of Challenge.
  • Practical:
    • Get used to the less desirable things early on, set the pace and moment by doing the difficult and scaling down instead of trying to add on from doing the easy. Those who can do incredible feats of endurance often say things such as “this is all I know” or “I didn’t know any other way”.
    • It isn’t about not losing control, but about regaining control once it is lost. Just like in Meditation where it is not about not having distracting thoughts come up, but what you do when those thoughts come up. It is a practice of returning to a state of presence and awareness.
  • Top 3 Closely Related Big Ideas:

Principle of Perception

  • In other words:
    • Your thoughts create your reality.
  • Supporting Evidence:
    • Variety in interpretations. Optical and other sensory illusions.
  • Discussion:
    • This is basically the concept of interpretations as was discussed in the Mental realm of the Life Simplified series and in the exploration of Meaning.
    • The way you choose to interpret a situation is the way you end up perceiving the situation. The meaning of the situation is a direct result. This is often based on what your mind thinks is most accurate or useful given your past experience. It occurs as a result of predictions based on your current body’s state and the body’s objective. For example, are you hungry? Then you may interpret the word cheese differently than if you were in front of a camera, or perhaps you don’t even need to be hungry due to all of your past experiences with the word cheese that relate to food as opposed to photography.
    • Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you are correct.
  • Practical:
    • Build up a vast array of experiences and spend a considerable amount of time reflecting on those experiences. Avoid approaching them in a “checkbox” like manner such as a “bucket list”.
    • Develop a growth mindset by looking for the opportunities and choosing to interpret situations positively.
  • Top 3 Closely Related Big Ideas:

Principle of Control

  • In other words:
    • Focus on your own Locus of Control.
  • Supporting Evidence:
    • The relative difference between how you perceive struggle vs others as well as emotions and feelings in general.
  • Discussion:
    • You can’t guarantee control over the circumstances, only control in you response to the circumstances. You can’t control your environment 100%, but you can control your response to your environment 100%. This is a skill that is developed with practice, assume you can and take the appropriate steps to find out how. Start by exploring with curiosity and an open-mind.
    • Successful people don’t make the right decisions, they make their decisions right. They don’t sit around waiting for the “perfect moment”, they take action and calibrate. They aim for good enough and adapt.
  • Practical:
    • Take action sooner rather than later. And then calibrate as needed. Non-successful people will wait until they feel like it before taking action, while successful people will take action SO THAT they feel like acting. Successful people understand that the more you move, the more you will want to move. An object in motion stays in motion unless an outside force is applied to it. What you resist will persist.
    • The quicker you get up and do it, the better off you’ll be, you will be thanking yourself later for having done it. Tattoo this in your mind so that it accompanies the thought of caving into comfort. Make it so that the urge to quit doesn’t come up without the thought of thanking yourself later for persevering also coming up.
  • Top 3 Closely Related Big Ideas:

Principle of Conditionals

  • In other words:
    • If this, then that.
  • Supporting Evidence:
    • Macro-level experiences with a vast range of contributing factors. The ability to reproduce experiments when all the factors are controlled and accounted for.
  • Discussion:
    • Everything in life has a deeper and more precise, logical, and meaningful explanation or reason for it. One that would just simply make sense if you understood enough of the bigger picture.
    • Everything is connected, each new event is tied to a previous event. All things exist on a chain of events. Each event builds on a past event in a never-ending chain of causality.
    • Everything happens for a reason, even beyond what might seems obvious. Even if it doesn’t seem like it at first, there is a deeper reason, and it isn’t some illogical spiritual reason either, but rooted in reality based on fundamental principles. You often can’t trust your own interpretation of what that reason is.
      • Unless you truly have the entire big picture, but then again, you highly likely don’t, no one has it.
    • Everything has a root cause, every incident has a cause that is often beyond what is obvious and digs deeper. Don’t assume that you’ve found it, it is safer to assume that you haven’t and keep exploring. Avoid concluding, it will cause a closed-mind and therefore inhibit learning.
    • Life is deterministic, by which I don’t necessarily mean in the freewill sort of way. Under the same conditions, the same things happen, such as gravity and jumping. This is why we can accurately predict (i.e. determine the future) where objects will land given the appropriate factors, by utilizing laws of physics.
      • NOTE: The microscopic (or quantum) level may be a bit more subtle and have factors at play that require a deeper and more precise understanding of the universe than we currently have. Perhaps we don’t even have the right sensory organs equipped for the necessary perception. After all, there probably isn’t a survival benefit to picking up such information, certainly not at our size, it would just be overwhelming noise.
  • Practical:
    • Pay special attention to the moments in life where something you once thought was true turned out to be completely wrong, and furthermore, the new way of viewing it makes even more sense and you question how you could have ever thought differently.
    • This is very useful in handling emotions. For example, it is useful to understand (and have supporting evidence through experience) that you would behave the exact same if you were “in their shoes”, meaning that you have had their exact same series of life experiences, in the exact same order. If this then that. If you had their experiences, then you would behave the exact same.
      • This can be tough to trust at first, but consider times when you were in situations where if the “shoe was on the other foot” you’d be throwing a fit in their direction. For example, getting cut off in traffic, you may quickly rationalize you doing so by saying something like “I don’t always do this”, “I’m sorry, I’m late for work!”, vroom vroom… But from the other’s perspective they just get this short glimpse of who you are and it’s easy for them to draw conclusions and make judgement, especially in the presence of ego.
      • Consider times when you’ve experienced a similar state of exhaustion or worries from something like a heart problem. When your heart starts acting up and you begin to get incredibly worried, you may quickly start to understand the place the other was coming from when they were in your shoes.
        • Pay special attention to these moments, they will make you a far more understanding individual.
        • This is why exploration and gaining novel and vast experiences is so important, because it allows for these insights of understanding that can very quickly reshape your view of the world and others. Rapid understanding comes from such.
    • If something isn’t consistent then there is probably something at a deeper level that needs addressed, you probably don’t have all of the factors necessary. As an analogy to programming, life is like a pure function, same input, same output.
  • Top 3 Closely Related Big Ideas:

Principle of Probability

  • In other words:
    • Ambiguity. The future is not known. Aim to increase your odds of success.
  • Supporting Evidence:
    • Our experience of time. Quantum physics and the uncertainty principle.
  • Discussion:
    • This isn’t a contradiction of the Principle of Conditionals. This simply states that because of all of the factors that go in to things, the future can not be known with 100% certainty. Life, as we know it, is ambiguous, meaning that it is open for interpretation.
    • Due to the dynamic nature of reality, environment/nurture plays a much larger role in determining brain development and how you perceive the world. Nature can’t predict the future and therefore has no idea what environment you’ll be born into. Nature’s best bet at promoting survival and further reproduction is to provide you with a dynamic set of tools that can adapt to the environment.
    • The odds of success can be influenced by you. The probability of a desirable event occurring has many factors that play into it, many of which are often in your control. Proper reflection is useful in learning from past experiences and improving your ability to calibrate and adapt for future experiences. This results in an increase in your odds of success.
  • Practical:
    • Avoid speaking in absolutes where it isn’t appropriate. For example, avoid saying “this person WILL”, instead aim to say “THEY SAID that they will …” or “I HEARD that they will”.
      • Default to sharing information in the exact form that it was received, allowing the interpretation of the information to be done on the receiver’s end (i.e. the person listening). Cite your sources, state who said what and then you could state your interpretation of it, if it is useful.
      • Basically, speak not in absolutes but instead by utilizing “guarding terms” (e.g. making statements conditionally, stating your degree of certainty, along with why you think so).
      • Speak as if you are trying everything you can to not be caught in a lie later on, as if you are aiming to maintain your own integrity. This means to be aware of and to state your assumptions.
    • You become what you repeatedly expose yourself to. Be aware of your environment, it will have an impact on you in a very gradual and subtle ways. This impact will have large implications later down the line, this delay in feedback makes it harder to tie changes that you suddenly notice back to the root cause.
      • Your thinking (thoughts and ideas) can be considered as an average of ~5 of those that are most influential around you. The same can be said about your personality, habits, and behaviors. Your environment consists of books, videos, social media, people, work, etc. Basically, anything that has particular relevancy to your state of well being, something that you tend to pay close attention to.
    • You can increase your chances of success by either increasing the quality or by increasing the quantity of an action. Addressing quality is more important for things that are meant to be long-term or completed with care, such as your health. The act of developing a habit is a short-term activity, once the habit is developed it continues to serve you without needing much attention, meaning you can then add quality once the habit is developed, but quantity is necessary to develop the habit. There are several things in life that require an appropriate amount of quantity, or trial and error, in order to increases chances of success. For example, a good idea often comes from a long series of bad ideas, it is an iterative process of adaptation and calibration that leads to good ideas.
  • Top 3 Closely Related Big Ideas:

Principle of Balance

  • In other words:
    • Symmetry. Sweet Spot. Moderation. Dualism. Yin and Yang. Find the groove. Flow like water. Adapt.
  • Supporting Evidence:
    • Evolution. Weather. Birth and death. Pain and pleasure. Comfort and discomfort. Experiences and their positive and negative consequences. Nature.
  • Discussion:
    • There is no single interpretation that is useful for all situations. Each situation and objective promotes the need for a different interpretation, one that best fits the objective
    • What may seem like a contradiction may actually be a complementary partnership. A yin and yang. A push and a pull. An expansion and a contraction, an exploration and a reflection.
    • The subtleties of reality such as balance and contradictions are often what cause the most ambiguity in life and leave people looking for stories such as religions to get rid of the ambiguity through a story that fills in the gaps. In many ways, however, the beauty of life is in the contradictions, in how there could be seemingly competing concepts but yet they exist in union and balance with one another.
  • Practical:
    • Aim for moderation. This is a virtue. Regularly delay gratification and “eat your frogs first“. This is basically the idea of keeping the pleasure ahead of you. Doing the pleasurable first results in what is not pleasurable seeming far more uncomfortable due to relativity. It also destroys motivation and leads to the urge to quit as you realize the worst has yet to come.
      • Aim for everything in moderation, find the balance. This does not mean no extremes, it simply means balance the amount of intensity in one extreme with an appropriate amount in the other. This is in line with being dynamic in life. Balance in the extremes does not necessarily mean time in the extremes. For example, a period of very intense exercise would need longer in recover than was spent in that exercise.
    • Be wary of polarizing to one extreme for long periods of time. Experimenting with perspective in an extreme is a great way to shock yourself into a new perspective and gain some profound insights, but this must be balanced with the opposite extreme. Notice if you are becoming too comfortable on one side of an argument.
    • Realize that the claims that you make also have negative consequences, there are trade offs to everything in life. Your decisions as well, will have trade offs. Avoid being oblivious to these trade offs.
    • Being to intensely focused on a single aspect of your life can lead to being oblivious to other aspects. Those neglected aspects can quickly begin hindering your ability to progress in all aspects. Take care to find balance. Ensure that any extreme in one direction is equally met with an extreme in the other direction. Avoid resting too much, and at the same time avoid going too intense. As was seen in the discussion on challenge, diving into an extreme can be good for shocking oneself into adaptation of a new identity or perspective, but even such experiences should be accompanies with the proper rest and reflection.
    • Many subtle things have a “sweet spot” where the most return is realized. Pushing past this sweet spot leads to diminishing returns. Building a sensitivity to the subtleties in the actions that you engage in can help in improving your ability to realize what most deserves your efforts. For example, weight lifting, weight loss, and learning all have a point where too much leads to detrimental effects in the long run.
  • Top 3 Closely Related Big Ideas:

Principle of Exploration

  • In other words:
    • Emphasize discovery and adventure through curiosity and an open mind. Novelty.
  • Supporting Evidence:
    • The brain’s response to novelty. The relationship between the brain and movement.
  • Discussion:
    • There are a ton of variety in life. From the various sensations and all the combinations thereof, types of movies, behaviors such as writing and reading, and socializing to astronomy, physics, imagination, and other abstract concepts. This variety provides a wonderful flavor to existence. Exploration of such  variety provides opportunities for insights into the nature of reality and provide a sense of fulfillment with the nature that we all share. Whatever the reason, you and I exist in a shared dimension, let’s see what there is to offer, no identification with things and a lack of judgement. Just acceptance.
  • Practical:
    • Live life like it is a video game. This idea was explore in the exploration on Connection. Seek out novelty.
    • Discover the depths and extremes of life, both the comfortable and the uncomfortable. Seek out discomfort as a tool for exploring how your mind operates and how you can gain better influence over your thoughts under pressure.
    • Pay special attention to the tendency to label and judge things around you. This is a natural byproduct of the brain trying to make sense of the world around you, society is also quick to reinforce this by saying this like “this is a flower”, it isn’t a flower, it is just called a “flower”. You may find that you are quick to interpret your environment and apply meaning prematurely, this can lead to the development of stories to explain your reality without any real evidence or backing.
      • Notice these and question them. If you can’t explain them deeply and from a place of objective truth, then you are probably fooling and misleading yourself. These beliefs don’t serve you, they hold you back, and reinforce negative habits of thinking things happen without any reason. There is always a reason. Aim for presence, minimize thought activity, just exist.
  • Top 3 Closely Related Big Ideas:

Principle of Reflection

  • In other words:
    • Carefully ponder events in your life with the intention of understanding.
  • Supporting Evidence:
    • Learning from one’s mistakes. Nature’s ability to adapt from trial and error.
  • Discussion:
    • An experience is useless if it doesn’t impact you in some way. You can choose this impact through your interpretations and you can ensure this impact has the opportunity to occur through taking time to ponder the experience that just happened.
    • Every experience has the opportunity to practice vital skills like effective interpretation and utilizing that interpretation in a way that promotes Effective Action.
  • Practical:
    • Take time after each major event in your life to do an “After Action Report”, where you consider what went well, what went wrong, the whys to each, and how you can improve.
    • Explore the world around you, engage in novel experiences. Travel to new places, experience new cultures, question your assumptions, pick up new skills and hobbies, meet new people, try a different career path. There a lot of ways to add novelty to your life. The more mundane and autopilot your life becomes, the less active your life becomes, the more you engage with the present moment, the more active your life becomes.
    • Avoid approaches experiences in life as a bucket-list checkbox, where on item is done for the sheer sake of a means to an end, a means to cross it off a list. Instead, approach the experience as an opportunity to explore how your mind and body respond to such a novel experience. use the opportunity to discover more about yourself, the species, life, and nature in general. It is an opportunity to carve out insights about the nature of reality. Just as you learned about the physical laws of nature as a child by tossing objects around and putting things in your mouth, you can continue this learning through approaching experiences with a sense of presence and curiosity.
    • Take up the practice of Journaling to utilize the power that writing has to promote still-minded and clear thinking. You can influence your thinking by how you write, and since writing is a conscious activity, you can use it to take conscious control over the thoughts you may unconsciously and habitually have.
    • Journaling and Meditation form a great pair where you can use Journaling to dig to a particular depth of a subject as well as slow your mind, and then use Meditation to feel and explore whatever is at that depth.
    • Beyond just meditation, mindfulness is just as useful in promoting reflection as it encourages presence and conscious awareness. Even just “Whitespace” is effective, meaning you limit the amount of stimulus you experience. True recovery from exhaustion is not adding stimulus such as watching TV, that is not the type of “relaxing” that will re-energize you. True recovery is reducing the amount of stimulus that you experience, this is why Sensory Deprivation Tanks are often recommended for re-energizing. Whitespace is an activity that achieves this by simply removing reducing the amount of stimulus you are exposed to. This can be done from walking, reading a book, or anything that is considerably less stimulating than the activity that exhausted you.
  • Top 3 Closely Related Big Ideas:

Principle of Depth

  • In other words:
    • Dig deep into the unknown with the bigger picture in mind.
  • Supporting Evidence:
    • Vast spectrum of feelings from pleasure to pain in all degrees. The concept of there being no largest number. The vastness of the universe.
  • Discussion:
    • There is an unfathomable depth to just about everything. From the size of the universe, the limits of perseverance and endurance, to pain/pleasure, speed of learning/reading/etc., strength to simply the reasons behind why things are the way they are.
    • When you think that all has been given, think again, there is more. There is always more. What is the largest number? gazillianton? what about… gazillianton + 1… If you can take one step, you can take another, there is always more you can give.
  • Practical:
    • Journal to discover the depth, then use meditation to explore the depth. This is explored further in the Life Simplified series.
    • Reinforce this principle by paying close attention to ah-ha moments in your life when you have a realization that “oh, this is far more important that I once thought”. This will help to train your mind to notice these as well as humble and convince you that there is far more than you can imagine, hence the importance of questioning your assumptions and remaining open-minded.
    • Due to the depth of that one can go, it can get overwhelming real quick and cause a lot of unnecessary complexity. Therefore, utilize simplifying to focus on what is relevant by using some simplified model that represents what aspects are important for your use-case.
  • Top 3 Closely Related Big Ideas:

Principle of Creation

  • In other words:
    • Create, experiment, approach life with a sense of curiosity
  • Supporting Evidence:
    • Existence itself. Reproduction. Evolution. The formation of matter. Chemistry and the elements of nature serving as building blocks.
  • Discussion:
    • Be a creator, be a contributor, a value builder. Be a creator far more than you are a consumer. A consumer consumes and adds no value, for example, watching TV, buying products, etc. Creators add value and contribute to society by providing something that is unique and hasn’t been done before, they create.
    • Overall satisfaction with one’s life can be boiled down to whether or not the individual’s primary dopamine source is from creating or from consuming. Creating leads to obtaining intrinsic value in the work that you do (meaning that it is not a means to an end, but the process itself is enjoyable). Passions develops from interests in this way.
    • Creating leads to an internal drive, purpose, and fulfillment.
      • Creating leads to true and long lasting fulfillment since the satisfaction comes from YOU, an internal source source and no reliance on an external source.
        • This is a stable source of satisfaction, in your control
      • Consuming leads to a dependence on external sources for happiness and satisfaction (to “feel complete”). Your happiness or satisfaction depends on something out of your control.
        • This is an unstable source of satisfaction, not in your control.
  • Practical:
    • Your primary dopamine source should come from CREATING (e.g. having accomplished something, solved a problem, etc.), basically anything resulting from delaying gratification. Your primary dopamine source should NOT come from consuming (e.g. watching TV, drugs, food, etc.)
  • Top 3 Closely Related Big Ideas:

Principle of Action

  • In other words:
    • Engage. Life is an active sport, not a passive one.
  • Supporting Evidence:
    • Nature is always changing. Something is always happening. Entropy.
  • Discussion:
    • Engagement is vital for Effective Living. The more you go on autopilot, the less fulfilling and satisfying your life will be in the end and the less value you will have to give to the world. Build your value by taking deliberate action towards accomplishing challenges that you set out for yourself.
  • Practical:
    • Move with a purpose, avoid falling into a mundane rut. Continuously explore and challenge yourself, seek out novel experiences such as traveling, new foods, new positive habits, new routines and systems for productivity, new people, books, cultures, etc. The brain responds very strongly to novelty and it is a great way to utilize the powers of neural plasticity.
    • Avoid sitting around waiting for something to happen, this is often only procrastination. First gain clarity, explore your options, and then make calculated steps, if waiting is the best course of action, then so be it, but have a strong reason for it. Aim to maximize engagement.
  • Top 3 Closely Related Big Ideas:

Principle of Routine

  • In other words:
    • Least Resistance. Life operates in cycles, it is cyclic. Synchronize to nature and live in alignment. Structure. Hierarchy.
  • Supporting Evidence:
    • Seasons. Habitual tendencies. The direction water flows. Social species.
  • Discussion:
    • Things come and go. It is not a loss if you “miss the bus”, just adapt for when the next bus comes. This relates closely to the Principle of Adaptation.
    • Emotions are a great example of this cyclic nature of reality. Emotions have a climax and are experienced like a wave, in fact, all feelings share this pattern. This was discussed further in our dive into the idea of  Challenge.
    • This principle can also be called the Principle of Least Resistance. This means that in any situation the path often taken is the one of least resistance. Due to the Principle of Relativity, what is considered least resistance is in the eye of the beholder. An action that may seem more resistive in the moment, such as exercise, could be interpreted as less resistant, long-term, than the alternative, such as choosing to watch TV instead.
    • Another interpretation for routine is that life is structured. This encompasses the hierarchies that may be seen within a social species, such as humans. Social species structure themselves in a cooperative manner for the good of the community. Structure is applied to ensure the community survives, even if that means sacrificing an individual.
    • All life competes for resources. These resources must be shared between one another. Food that is seen to be scarce will often be fought over. The most aggressive participate in this fight usually wins the food. In this way the fight for resources is largely based on a dominance hierarchy.
  • Practical:
    • Develop routines and systems that promote Effective Action. For new and daunting habits, focus on quantity at first in order to build a foundation for the habit. If you can only commit to two minutes of a habit, then that is fine. If you can only commit to 1 push up, then so be it. Start where you are, start small, and build from there. When you first begin building a habit, aim more on showing up rather than performing well, even if it is just putting on your running clothes and stepping out the door 5 feet before turning back and going inside.
    • Nature has a way of resurfacing past emotional traumas in unusual and disguised ways until you finally face and properly process/feel them.
      • Build your ability to transfer information from one context to another so that you can recognize past emotional baggage that is showing itself again in another way.
    • Find points within these emotional cycles that can be optimized. What part of the routine is the bottleneck of further growth? Optimize and adapt for the next pass around. Don’t choose to be “ignorant” hoping that emotional pain will go away and stay away if you suppress it. It won’t, it will resurface over and over in various ways, causing more trauma to be added, until you finally process it. Address the root cause, not the symptoms.
    • Synchronize with cycles of life such as sleep, eating, exercise, etc. Build your own cycles as well with periods of stress and recovery. Explore the various cycles life has to offer such as cortisol (the stress hormone) levels and the best times of day to workout. Synchronize.
    • Beware that you will be more likely to default to your habits in the face of uncertainty. This is why Clarity and Awareness are important. The more clarity you have regarding what you want, the more likely you will follow through and take a route you haven’t before. The awareness allows for the recognition of this uncertainty, the potential alternative if you were to take the least resistant path, and the need for clarity as well as illuminates the first few steps you could take.
    • Stand tall, have your shoulders back and back straight. Act from a state of abundance. Note that acting from ego and a desire to bully others usually comes from a place of fear, which is scarcity. So acting from abundance is about a calm stillness. You don’t need to express dominance over something else, your presence speaks confidence by how you carry yourself and behave. You know that you are strong and it shows through your posture and assertiveness in communication. This means stating your desires and not feeling guilty or ashamed about them.
  • Top 3 Closely Related Big Ideas:

Principle of Variation

  • In other words:
    • Variation is the norm. Change is to be expected.
  • Supporting Evidence:
    • Evolution. Survival of the good enough. Nature’s experimentation for survival. Brain activity for things like emotions. The dynamic aspect of reality.
  • Discussion:
    • While routine and cycles is natural in nature, on a more granular level things will vary. Each time around the cycle may bring with it a slight variation in a more micro-level than the previous cycle.
    • From one species to the next, variety is all over. Even from one member of a species to the next, variety shows up. Variety helps to increase the chances of a species’ survival. Due to the dynamic nature of reality, if every member of a species was the same, a slight change in the environment could be enough to wipe out the entire species. With variation, it far harder to kill of an entire species and far more likely for evolution to take its place and pass on the genes that are most fit for the particular environment. At the same time, however, variations can occur within a seemingly stable population in the form of mutations. These mutations give the species the variety that helps prevent a species having “all of its eggs in one basket”, in terms of genetics, thus promoting the survival of the species.
  • Practical:
    • Expect change. Plan for it. Life is naturally ambiguous, meaning there are multiple possible interpretations of it. To effectively deal with ambiguity you should balance exploration with exploiting by acquiring what information you can from the context and past experience to help shift the probabilities of the interpretations so that one, or a few, interpretations becomes the most likely. This most likely interpretation is thus your best bet at making a decision that promotes Effective Action. Since experience is involved in dealing with ambiguity, you must explore and learn by trial and error. The presence of balance also suggests the subtle reality of nature as well, a keen eye is necessary in being able to notice the nuances of life and pull out what is relevant while ignoring what is not.
    • Seek out novel experiences, if you find yourself doing the same things over and over, then you are violating this principle. Living in accordance with nature is to live in accordance with the principles of nature and life itself. From observation, it can be seen that variation is the norm. Engage in learning a new dance move, a new skills such as skateboarding, expose yourself to a new culture, a new language, whatever you can to promote variation in your life.
    • Variation is also useful in terms of diet, as a variety in your diet can promote healthy gut bacteria and ensure the right variety of nutrients.
  • Top 3 Closely Related Big Ideas:

Principle of Contradiction

  • In other words:
    • Cognitive dissonance. No one size fits all. No single solution. Everything is perceived through interpretations that are based on a particular, individualized, and every changing objective.
  • Supporting Evidence:
    • Abstract techniques of learning such as exploring for breadth vs digging into a topic for depth. Focus mode vs Diffuse mode of thinking.
  • Discussion:
    • Due to the ambiguous nature of reality and the fact that there are so many different interpretations and that no single word or phrase can capture an idea in the exact intended manner leads to a high probability of contradictions.
    • While there may be contradictions depending the interpretation you take, one interpretation may prove more useful given a particular objective. Therefore, Effective Living is about choosing the interpretation that best leads to Effective Action for the particular objective you have at that point in time. Even if it contradicts a previous objective, the aim is to remain flexible and continuously be able to adapt.
  • Practical:
    • This contradictory nature of reality can cause a lot of emotional overwhelm and confusion. Approaching life with an open mind can help to dissolve some of this overwhelm.
    • Develop your ability to swap perspectives around and interpret a situation from another’s point of view. Be able to argue in both directions of a case.
    • Develop an ability to hold several competing ideas in mind at once. This is known as cognitive dissonance. This ability is useful in being able to handle complex ideas, it is also correlated with one’s ability to drop a bad habit such as smoking. To quit smoking you have to realize that you want to be somewhere where your current actions don’t suggest you are, believing that you can quit smoking can be difficult if you can’t accept the fact that you have a problem in the first place. Those who can quit something “cold turkey” often have a very strong ability to hold competing ideas, or contradictions, in mind at once.
    • Keep an open mind and constantly search for the truth, getting distracted by ego and the desire to be right or polarizing to one extreme will inhibit your ability to learn and adapt in a naturally ambiguous world.
    • While it is important to explore, it is also important to dig deep into a subject. While it is important to focus intensely, it is also important to relax and let your mind wonder. There is a time for everything, even the things that contradict eachother. While it is important to remain present and avoid analyzing and labeling, there are times when analyzing, planning for the future, and labeling is important. While presence suggests avoiding seeking something and being content with what you have in the here in now, Effective Living also involves seeking the truth and an understanding.
      • Through experience, an active search for meaning, and an open mind you’ll develop an ability that is hard to put into words, where you’ll be able to discern what is relevant and what is not. Where you’ll be able to separate cumbersome details from useful information. This is a very useful skill that highly intelligent people learn, perhaps only in one discipline such as mathematics or physics, but can be learned generally in all areas of life. It is more of a feeling, like an elegant dance move, that can’t be captured words. It can’t be “pointed” to, it’s more than an idea, it’s a feeling. It has to be experienced, like trying to train someone to ride a bicycle through the written word, it is highly nuanced and subtle.
      • Balance is key. Everything in moderation.
  • Top 3 Closely Related Big Ideas:

Principle of Initial Conditions

  • In other words:
    • The closer an event occurs to the birth of a thing, the more influence it has. The butterfly effect.
  • Supporting Evidence:
    • Childhood. Relationships. Learning. Birth of anything, from life to projects.
  • Discussion:
    • The earlier a thing is in its life, the more easily it can be influenced. An idea that takes this to the extreme is the theory of “blank slate“, while the reality is more likely gray and not black and white, using extremes such as this can help in understanding the idea. This closely relates to the principle that life is dynamic and constantly adapting.
    • A useful analogy in thinking about this is a gun rotating in a circle in the center of a circular room. If the gun was to be pointed straight ahead, say 0 degrees, the bullet would land at some point on the circular room’s wall. If the gun were to move by a single degree to the right, the bullet would end up landing someone on the wall in a much further distance from where the first bullet landed than was the change in degrees of the gun.
      • In other words, a slight change to the initial condition of where the bullet originated caused a much larger change in where the bullets landed.
      • This can now be extrapolated to where the size of the room increases. The larger the room, the greater impact the slight change in the bullet’s initial direct will have on where the bullet will land.
      • The size of the room is like the distance from the initial condition, the distance from the onset or birth of the thing. As the room gets larger, time increases, the age of the thing increases and thus the impacts that occurred way back in the initial conditions have a much larger impact where they end up.
    • This is closely related to the our exploration of Awareness, in particular, the idea that it is easier to start out with awareness and carry a higher level of consciousness from one moment to the next than to try and recoup awareness from a place of chaos.
  • Practical:
    • Pay special attention to the beginning of things. Your habits are important, if you are moving to a new house, organize the house in a way that promotes productivity as soon as you move in. If you wait until a year later, then it may never get done or at the very least you’ll have to combat your old, competing, tendencies.
    • This does not necessary mean start of focusing on quality of an action such as a new exercise, if it a new habit the quality or what is considered “starting off strong” may be simply showing up. Because quantity is far more important during the start of habit than the quality of form is. To build quality requires showing up consistently, which requires a strong foundation and consistency to be in place, meaning you need the habit first. Eating healthy one day won’t change your body, but doing so consistently will, with the habit of eating healthy you can then begin getting more granular with the types of foods you eat and think more about macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbs) rather than just calories. Start simple and build.
    • Be aware of transition periods in your life and in your day. These can be as small as the change from sleep to wake, drive to work, drive home, exercise, etc. It can be a bit larger such as the end of a semester at school, a change in the season, the end of a quarter or the year itself. It can ever go to a more macro level where a transition is a decade, or a period of your life such as from teen years to your 20s, retirement, or even the death of a loved one. Add meaning to these moments and find a way to make the worse thing that has ever happened to you the best. Use these transition periods as a rebirth, the start of a new, an opportunity to optimize new initial conditions.
      • Transition periods are great ways to piggy-back changes in habits and serve to symbolize a new chapter in your day, your year, your relationships, your career, or your life.
    • Contemplate the implications that your childhood has had on you and how your behavior today has been influenced by it. Do the same for relationships, what big events during the start of your relationship with your significant other has influenced how you view them today? Being aware of these is a great way to begin to take control and choose how you wish to be.
    • Take special care of your own children as well as other children, they are very impressionable in their early years and things that you may think are “no big deal” can have a large impact on them. Model the way, lead by example, act in the way that you would want to child to act in, because your behavior is what speaks the loudest. The child learns to behave like the caregiver, despite what the parent says. In other words, avoid “do as I say, not as I do”, this is utterly wrong and is a means of encouraging lazy and immature behavior in the caregiver. If you haven’t raised yourself, meaning that your behavior and actions speak for how an individual should become after childhood, then you shouldn’t raise a child. Put the oxygen mask on yourself first, fix your own issues before the immature and premature act of bringing another human into the world, especially when it is often only done as a means to check off a bucket-list due to feeling obligated to “have children”. If you want children, have them, but ensure you are ready, be mature or the irresponsible actions of yours will be implicitly learned by your children.
  • Top 3 Closely Related Big Ideas:

Principle of Compound Impact

  • In other words:
    • All life is incremental. Building blocks are used to create larger structures.
  • Supporting Evidence:
    • Chemistry and the elements of nature. One thing is created from other things which can be used in the creation of yet another thing.
  • Discussion:
    • Actions that you take today can be used in your favor tomorrow to promote the creation of a more complex but useful idea. This is the basic concept behind learning, you take one concept and apply it in a new useful way, perhaps combining several concepts together to be used as a representation of the bigger picture.
    • Tools are created in order to be used in the creation of even bigger tools. Consider forging a hammer and nails so that keep things together or “pinned” down is easier.
    • Everything in life occurs due a series of previous events. Each new event building on the previous in an every continuing chain of causality.
    • You can’t go from 0 to 60 MPH without hitting everything in between. Everything happens in small increments. Everything is composed of smaller pieces and not all pieces can be thrown together at once, the larger system must be assembled piece by piece.
    • Little things add up to big changes. This includes the subtle feelings and differences in adjustments to routines or feeling a muscle work during a workout. Don’t underestimate these subtleties.
  • Practical:
    • Do something today that you will thank yourself for tomorrow. Delay the gratification in favor of building a better tomorrow.
    • Take time upfront to gain Clarity. Then focus on the next smallest step and trust that it will lead to your objective. During transition periods, reflect and adapt as needed.
    • Start where you are right now and build from there. Patience and humility is vital during this process, avoid the urge to try and leap forward. “Leaps” (as you may perceive them) may happen, but they will be infrequent if you try to force them. Beware of the ego.
    • Focus your energy and efforts on the fundamentals at first, even if they may seem boring and not the glory that you were after when you first started. Examples include ensuring proper form when starting a new exercise and learning the fundamental principles to a new subject.
    • In order to go fast you must start slow. Build the moment early so that a snowball effect can kick in and allow for compounding growth.
    • Time moves forward, each second that passes is another second that can be in the bank of growth or the bank of self-destruction. Which one will you invest in?
    • Deconstruct a skill that you want to learn into the fundamentals, drill down and learn the fundamentals deeply before adding on complexity.
    • Many of the best ideas build on top of previous ideas. To have these “best” ideas, you must have ideas to build on. Quantity is key in creativity, it helps to get the “juices flowing” and stimulates ideas. Produce more, think less, allow yourself to get absorbed and trust. Remove the resistance (be fluid and dynamic, not rigid).
      • The same goes for any sort of incremental activity, including muscle building, skill development, relationships, etc. Take the time to develop yourself and reap compounding benefits.
  • Top 3 Closely Related Big Ideas:

 

Those are the current Principles of Effective Living that I’ve found. There is plenty more to be said about each as well as more examples of nature-based evidence. This list probably isn’t complete, I’m sure there will be plenty more to discover and ways to combine and rearrange them to be more accessible.

So, a quick recall.

There are 3 fundamental, non-negotiable, principles to life itself:

  • Movement
  • Nutrition
  • Rest

Then there are more granular principles, starting from the most foundational:

  • Principle of Simplicity
  • Principle of Good Enough
  • Principle of Adaptation
  • Principle of Entropy
  • Principle of Relativity
  • Principle of Perception
  • Principle of Control
  • Principle of Conditionals
  • Principle of Probability
  • Principle of Balance
  • Principle of Exploration
  • Principle of Reflection
  • Principle of Depth
  • Principle of Creation
  • Principle of Action
  • Principle of Routine
  • Principle of Variation
  • Principle of Contradiction
  • Principle of Initial Conditions
  • Principle of Compound Impact

 

Identity

Big Idea: Effective Living begins when you break away from who society tells you to be.

Basically: You have the power to choose who you want to be, but there will be uncertainty.

This component encompasses how you perceive yourself. Are you an Engineer? A Lawyer? A Professor? Your profession is a role and it often contributes to your sense of self, i.e. your identity. Your current relationships, such as being married, divorced, single, in a relationship, etc. also contribute as well as your perceived status in society.

There are a lot of factors that go in to forming an identity. This is strongly related to the implications of our discussion on Meaning, in particular the concept of interpretations. There are many ways to interpret the events in one’s life, how these are interpreted play a recursive role in influencing how we see ourselves.

Due to the Principle of Initial Conditions (see above), childhood is one of the most influential factors to an individual’s identity. I call the identity that results from the initial phase of childhood and teenage years the “Default Identity”. This is basically the identity that society handed to you, it was the result of your environment. You’ve had little to no control over this default identity, you couldn’t of, you didn’t know enough about the world to have a say.

A highly conscious parent can help in the healthy development of this identity and help to bring a higher level of awareness to the child. However, the child is too impressionable/sensitive and likely too exposed to such a high number of external factors such as strangers on the street, books, objects, tv, music, hormones etc. that it is not practical to assume that any individual out of their teenage years has an identity that they chose themself.

It is for this reason that this default identity should be questioned and ultimately destroyed. Many people, however, live their whole life with this default identity. They live under the same assumptions and beliefs that their parents gave them. Their actions are still highly influenced by the trauma that they encountered as a child.

The default identity isn’t a problem, by the Principle of Chaos and the Principle of Simplicity, it is completely natural and beneficial to have developed a bloated pile of more complexity than you need. From more rock than is necessary comes the opportunity to carve a masterpiece. The default identity becomes an issue when it is allowed to persist unconsciously (usually due, in a large part, to ego). The longer it persists throughout your adult life, the more grip it will have in influencing your actions, to the point that a lot of your actions are not your own and just a result of the programming that you’ve received during your childhood.

Effective Living is about removing this default identity and choosing the life you want to live. This is so that your actions can be effective in the sense that they are minimally influenced by external forces.

This idea of identity carries over to all aspects of life that are influenced by initial conditions. It was just discussed in a more general sense and a macro-level above, but you can deconstruct (following the Principle of Simplicity) each individual aspect of an identity in order to consider the foundational components of the larger identity. These components can include relationships, career, hobbies, health, etc. Each of which can be further deconstructed, such as relationships being deconstructed to family, spouse, and children. Which (by the Principle of Depth), can be deconstructed even more into things such as individual relationships, parents, genetics, ancestry, etc.

Developing awareness in one aspect can help to develop awareness in all aspects. Just as improving one component of a larger system can help to improve the performance of the system as a whole. Everything is connection.

This concept of Default Identity will be further explored in the “Why is it Important” and “How do I Develop It” topics of Effective Living. The main idea now is that the sense of Identity plays a large role in living effectively.

Basically, life is no more than what you attach meaning to. The purpose of life is however you define it. What you identify with, leads to a creation of your “identity”. BEWARE, this can make or break a person.

Mindset

Big Idea: Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you are correct.

Basically: A growth mindset, believing you can improve, increases your chances of success.

A mindset is essentially a framework through which experiences in the world are interpreted. A negative mindset will promote ineffective living as the experiences of your life will be viewed in a negative light. Whereas, a positive mindset will promote viewing experiences in a positive light. Due to the Principle of Perception, this interpretation will largely influence the reality that you perceive.

A “Growth Mindset” is a mindset with the core interpretation of one’s ability to improve. If they fail at something and have a Growth Mindset, then they will likely interpret the experience as a learning opportunity. A “Fixed Mindset”, on the other hand, will cause such a failure to be viewed as “I’m not cut out for this” or “It’s not meant to be”. A Fixed Mindset looks at failures personally and successes as luck, a Growth Mindset interprets failures as one-off occurrences that can be improved from and success as a result of their own personal hard work.

An effective mindset for Effective Living encompasses ideas such as experimentation, exploration, trial and error, being impartial and objective, and being self-aware. If you are not failing, then you are not trying hard enough. True growth and Effective Action comes from Challenge and pushing oneself, this will inevitably lead to failures. Failures are stigmatized by society, but they are a key to Effective Living. By the Principle of Adaptation, the real skill is in the ability to calibrate and self-correct, this is only learned through experimentation and trial and error.

Taking the idea of a mindset a bit further, you can say that Effective Living is the point where the majority of your focus switches from the external world to your internal world. Where curiosity and exploration of what is going on within you becomes dominant, where a sense of inner drive begins to develop. This is especially useful due to the Principle of Reflection, which promotes this inner exploration. This is key to building self-awareness and dropping the ego.

Effective Living is about exploring your inner self and learning what works for YOU. This requires trial and error. Failure is necessary, less failure can lead to a slowing of this development.

Curiosity for your inner world requires patience and a reduction of external distraction, hence the importance of Journaling and Meditation. In general, Whitespace is a great tool in reducing the amount of stimulus you experience and allowing for true rest and recovery. In a state of reduced stimulus your mind can begin to relax and insights can begin to pop up, such as you may have experienced in the early morning or during a relaxing shower.

This curiosity requires an objective point of view, which is built from not having coaches and requiring strong self-awareness in order to continue improving. This comes from a regular habit of independence, strongly preferring to do things on your own, from scratch, with as little help as possible. This, in itself, is a great way to increase the value that you have to give the world, because it exposes you to novel experiences whose interpretations are not influenced by others and solely dependent on your own unique set of experiences. If it isn’t a completely unique experience, then it is a completely unique perspective of that experience, and therefore there is value that can be given back to the world. The more you do things in such independence, the more your perspective will be unique, since your thoughts are often no more than an average of a few of the most influential sources of information around you.

This objective view point can be further developed by setting obstacles in your way (i.e. Challenges) and then leaving yourself no other choice than to FIND A WAY through. This is similar to the to the Muslim invasion of Iberian Peninsula, where the commander, where Tariq bin Ziyad, ordered to have his boats burned during an attack to leave the army no option of retreat. This is basically ensuring a point of no return. This is a core principle of discipline and the necessity it creates is a strong driver of high performance. This is a great way to reduce psychological resistance, aligning the mind to the objective, and providing the highest level of motivation to find a way through.

Objectivity is a key to promoting Effective Action. It is also vital to promoting self-awareness. With it you learn how your body and mind works so that you can cater all things you encounter to what is relevant to you. This is in line with the Principle of Relativity, as it takes into consideration the individual and unique nature that we all have. Our experiences are different, our interpretations are different, and our point of views are different; therefore, we should learn how to interpret information in a way that is meaningful to us.

Beyond objectivity, having a mindset where you constantly ask questions is a great way to promote the sort of exploration that is vital to Effective Living. Questions direct focus, it promotes thinking, it encourages experimentation. Unfortunately, most people are conditioned to avoid asking questions early in life due to impatience caregivers who throw a fit when a child asks a question that they can’t answer, hurting their poor ego. Instead, stating your experience (if you have any) and then searching the internet or other sources WITH the child for an answer is incredibly powerful, thereby showing the child that it’s okay to not know, and modeling what one does when they don’t know. The only roadblock is one’s ego and pride, hence the importance of being impartial and the only aim being on truth.

Drill in one questions, ask them recursively, one after another, about anything and everything, you don’t even need to have an answer, just raise the question and let it sizzle, at the very least you’ll give the subconscious a puzzle to work on and prime your mind to notice answers. This encourage presence and is in line with the Principle of Exploration and the Principle of Depth. Reflection itself is a great time to raise and ponder questions.

These ideas of mindset will be explored further in the “Why is it Important” and “How do I Develop It” topics of Effective Living. The point now is just the introduction of this vital component to Effective Living.

 

Meta

Big Idea: Because we are conscious, we must learn how to live.

Basically: Exploring the bigger picture provides clarity and compound insights.

Meta is an adjective that is self-referential, meaning that it is used to indicate a self-reference to the noun being described. It is also used as a prefix (meta-) in the same light. It essentially just means “about itself”. Metadata is a common term brought up about in computing, which refers to data about data. For example, metadata for a database could be the schema, or representation, of the database, such as the column headings of a table in a data Spreadsheet (e.g. the “First Name” column).

To improve anything, it is often helpful to understand the bigger picture. To get a full view of this picture, you have to take a step back. This step back is essentially the process of meta- in any regard, whether it is meta-learning, meta-living, or meta-data. It is taking a step back to examine patterns, properties, insights, and examine each with the bigger picture in mind.

Meta is a vital component to Effective Living because it basically encompasses the Principle of Exploration, the Principle of Reflection, and the Principle of Depth all in one concept. Meta-living is what we can call this concept. It is basically taking a step back and learning how to live, the very premise of Effective Living. It involves learning how your brain and body works (taking into consideration the Principle of Relativity), such as emotions, learning, dealing with struggle, etc.

When you take a step back, consider the bigger picture, and learn the skill of acquiring skills or the skill of how to live life more effectively, you begin to acquire abilities that can transfer from one domain to the next. This promotes the Principle of Compound Impact. The very act of me first discussing the Big Ideas of Effective Living (such as Awareness, Challenge, and Meaning), as well as the principles described above and then referring to them later, is, in itself, promoting a compound impact. I can encapsulate a single idea that was previously elaborated on in a few words and refer back to the exploration of that concept. With the previous concept understood, the more complicated ideas that build on it can begin to be more easily understood. This is a fundamental idea in effective learning and one of the key reasons why math is seen as difficult, there is a very large chain of prerequisites to concepts such as Calculus, any incorrect assumption or gap in understanding can lead to confusion later down the road, and uncovering that gap can be very difficult and requires patience and a strong sense of self-awareness.

Aiming for compound impact is done through things such as drilling the fundamentals, promoting transferability between domains, focus intensely and patiently on what is foundational early on so you can use it as a tool (and refer to it) later. This is the basic idea of “chunking” and has strong implications in productivity.  Do your tomorrow-self a favor, today.

These will be explored further in the “Why is it Important” and “How do I Develop It” topics of Effective Living.

 

Practices

Big Idea: The framework of Effective Living contains a handful of tried and true practices.

Basically: The core principles of Effective Living are encompassed in a few practices.

Due to the fact that Effective Living is meant to be a framework through which life is approached, it consists of a handful of vital practices that promote Effective Action.

These are mainly Journaling and Meditation, but there are several implications and guidelines that can come from these. For example, having, what I call, a “Life’s Toolbox” journal is an incredible way to promote Effective Living.

A Life’s Toolbox is essentially a journal that contains one-line zingers or short, bite-size, key phrases and insights that you’ve discovered during your exploration. It is not a “daily journal” where you let a stream of thought flow, it is basically the endpoint for what is discovered from those stream of thoughts. If you encounter something eye-opening or thought provoking while watching a video, reading a book, or talking with someone then you could summarize that idea in your Life’s Toolbox.

This notebook is meant to be a long-term, living and breathing account of the evolution that your life undertook. It is the ultimate source of reflection and can serve as a gift to the rest of the world or even just to your children, giving them a head-start in the various discovers you’ve had through experiments that might provide those genetically related to you with similar insights sooner rather than later. It is the implementation of the exploration that Effective Living is all about.

You may take several years for your Life’s Toolbox (large) notebook to be completely full before needing another large notebook and continuing the journey. The insights placed in this notebook should be aimed for quality, if you were to take a paragraph and remove the fluff (e.g. filler words, and other “proper” English sentence constructions), there should be a large percentage (>70%) of the initial words that remain. This is to say that what goes in this notebook should contain as much quality as possible, avoid limiting your ability to convey big ideas in a few words by enforcing proper grammar, this will only slow you down. By the Principle of Simplicity, focus on what is relevant, and what is relevant for a Life’s Toolbox is the quality insights that fundamentally were responsible in changing how you view the world. Whatever success or failure that you experience, can be explored by the rest of humanity through looking through your Life’s Toolbox journals.

The Life’s Toolbox is the foundational reason for the insights that I’ve had in life as well as my ability to articulate them in a clear and concise manner. Every human being should have a similar journal. Too often ideas that have the potential to change the world come and go without further thought, the first idea may be silly or downright impractical, but it could be the start of a breakthrough idea. Having good ideas is a numbers game, by the Principle of Probability, to increase your chances of having a good idea, have more ideas. Don’t expect the first idea to be mind-blowing, it takes calibration and reflection.

There are a lot to be said about a Life’s Toolbox as well as the various practices involved in Effective Living. These will be further explored in the “Why is it Important” and “How do I Develop It” topics of Effective Living.

 

Summary

Big Idea: Effective Living is a general framework that is meant to be individualize.

Basically: Find what works for you, explore the implications of the framework in your life.

This was a long overview of what Effective Living is meant to be. It is meant to be a general framework that aims to chip away at key fundamentals in life that promote one’s ability to take Effective Action and contribute something of value to the world. Like with any system, there are components that make it up, these components are Principles, Identity, Mindset, Meta, and Practices.

While the attempt is to provide a comprehensive guide to living effectively, there is no claim that this is entirely comprehensive. There is still more to be learned and plenty of skeptics to listen to in order to properly flush out the irrelevant fluff and work towards something that is maximally useful. This is a continuous process, as the Principle of Depth suggests. This is just meant to get the ball rolling and kick off the conversation.

Studying the components in isolation allows for the subtleties and behaviors of the system to be better understood. Next time we will explore the relationships between these components, the principles, and how they relate back to the several Big Ideas we’ve explored earlier (e.g. Intensity of Stimulus, Meaning).

Everything is connected!

 

Your Call to Action

Thank you for reading!

This is a BIG IDEA. Like all ideas, the most value from it can be added when it scrutinized and challenged, so PLEASE, provide your feedback. How can the concept of Effective Living be improved? What contradictions do you find? How can it be made more accessible? Share in the comments section below!

Don’t put off contemplating what the insights from this article mean, find a quiet location and think deeply about what it might mean for you. Just 10 deliberate minutes can make a large difference, set a timer, do it regularly and you will notice the changes within a few weeks. You improve your ability to think and therefore make effective decisions by spending more time deliberately thinking about the relevant subject. Consider applying journaling and meditation to see more profound changes, these are just more deliberate and concentrated forms of quiet and focused thinking. Slow down, find stillness.

I am always looking to improve my reach and the impact that I have with my writing, please provide your feedback in the comments below.

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