Hello, readers! Welcome to the continuation of the Effective Living series!
At this point we’ve seen a pretty thorough inspection of what Effective Living is.
Effective Living can be thought of as a framework that encompasses fundamental (discovered) truths about life as it relates to taking Effective Action. Where Effective Action is any action that leads to added value, this value is entirely individualized. The framework is meant to provide a general foundation on which you can apply structure to your life in a way that is meaningful to you and that ensures you are doing things that ACTUALLY get you results.
We’ve seen the framework laid out and then we saw how the pieces of the framework fit together. An understanding of the basic idea is important to understand what is to follow, refer back to the overview, if necessary.
Now, let’s consider why Effective Living and Effective Action should be considered in the first place.
Improvement is in Our Nature
Big Idea: The concept of growth and improvement is interleaved within nature itself.
Basically: Mother Nature wants her children to grow in an effective manner.
It is natural human nature to want to improve. It is the fundamental idea of evolution, it is a concept that is baked into nature itself. You’re a part of nature, and therefore you are subject to the same ambitions.
There is no shame in this ambition. We all want better for ourselves, we want to minimize the discomfort we face in life and maximize the pleasure. Even if that means delaying gratification due to some, perceived, future benefit.
The problem that often comes up is that people are left full of uncertainty in how to improve. Society may even promote a mediocre lifestyle to keep you consuming what industries are putting out, so that they continue making money off of you in order to feed their own ambitions.
The influence of society and a negative environment (perhaps full of well-intentioned individuals) often leads to people doubting their ability. This is compounded by the gap between where they see themselves and where they see the “stars” in the media, such as athletes or models. This is further compounded by the community we live in validating our dysfunction and insecurities by saying “it’s okay”, usually in an attempt to make themselves feel better about their own dysfunction. The media encourages feelings of inadequacy as it is, but having someone in their personal life who has grown to be better as well would make them feel even more inadequate. They can’t simply turn off the TV and be ignorant, so they instead encourage others around them to remain the same to validate their own mediocrity.
The factors that go in to making someone suppress their ambitions for a life of mediocrity are many. For example, people are quick to chop things up to genetics, family, race/gender, or other limitations, they find comfort in blaming someone else. Creating or reinforcing a story makes them feel better and clears up ambiguity. But this is a fundamental flaw that causes a negative feedback loop of inadequacy. Blaming others for your problems ensures that you will continue to have those problems, you lose all control. If you are the problem, then you are the solution, you have the control and can make changes to improve.
The factors can go even further, for example, individuals could be so wrapped up in their current identity, even if it is one of being a victim, that change seems like death (as, in many ways, it would be, especially to the ego). There are even limitations due to the fear of isolation, disappointment, or being ridiculed as a result of improving past our peers or family. Our own community can contaminate our thinking and identity to the degree of complete and utter dysfunction. Because we are conscious, we must learn how to live.
That’s why core components of Effective Living include mindset and identity. No long-term Effective Action can be taken without having these in check.
Even with the right ambitions, people often still fall short due to a lack of clarity, awareness, and various other important topics that we’ve already discussed. There is simply too much ambiguity on what to do, they are too comfortable with where they are at. They don’t want it bad enough. This is why those who are successful, usually have become so in such a way that can be traced back to some hardship that shook them out of comfort. A cozy life leads to no fulfillment, meaning, or accomplishment. And it often is the case that such a cozy life leads to dysfunction and disease. Do the easy things and live a hard life, or do the hard things and live an easy life. You will change when you leave yourself no other choice, this is the Principle of Adaptation.
Address the Limitations
Big Idea: Effective Living comprises concepts that helps in navigating through limitations.
Basically: We all have the drive to improve, but society tries cripple us into mediocrity.
The desire to improve is already in our nature. The question, then, is more about how do you improve?
Addressing this involves many Big Ideas such as Clarity, Challenge, and Meaning, as we have already discussed in some depth. Ultimately, there are two big limiting problems at play: a limiting, echo-chamber, environment and ambiguity.
The very nature of evolution involves the environment dictating what adaptations are necessary due to the simple fact that the organism’s survival depends on the environment. These adaptations impact everything that contributes to the reality that we perceive. So, the environment is a key contributor to how we feel, think, act, and navigate.
The environment is a fundamental contributor to how we perceive reality and how our brains are wired. Be wary of blindly following others, our desire for community and social connection makes us at risk of this, which leads to a negative spiral as our weak behaviors and habits get validated. This is why successful people are often those who “dance to a different beat”, who are creative and can step outside of the status quo, they are innovators. They have characteristics that mimic that of a leader more than that of a follower. They understand that what is widely spoken is not necessarily (and likely isn’t) true, what is widely spoken often goes from person to person out of habit and “following the herd” with very little contemplation before passing it on. Sounding smart or cool is all that is needed to repeat saying it, and generations can go by uttering the same cliches without ever having a second thought.
This sort of blind following and validation from others in our community is exactly what produces an echo-chamber. An echo-chamber is an environment where you only hear back thoughts, opinions, beliefs, etc. that you already hold, reinforcing your stance. People tend to flock towards echo-chambers because they feel validated. Religion, politics, etc. are fine examples of these. Facebook or other feed-based sites are also examples, since you see more of what you “like” or “agree with” and less of what you don’t.
The beauty of the modern-day is that our environment isn’t just limited to the physical world, we can build our environment around successful heroes and leaders through books and the internet. The difference is negligible to your brain, the same sensory input hits the brain. Hence the popularity of porn, movies, and books, the flashy pixels are enough to produce similar feelings as if we were actually there, because to our brain, the experience is nearly identical. There are a lot of cautions around this power, though, it can easily be abused to the point of dysfunction.
This is all to say that you have the power to change your environment, even if it is just reading a book or exploring online articles and videos.
But, as we have seen in the discussion on Meaning, it is our interpretations that ultimately have the say in how we perceive reality. The brain is the endpoint in which sensory information ends up, this sensory information essentially describes our world. But, due to the power of consciousness we have the ability to interrupt the input before the final interpretation. This is the reason behind the claim that “because we are conscious, we must learn how to life”. These are concepts that are deeply interleaved into the Effective Living framework.
Uncertainty and risk is enough to cripple a lot of people and keep them from taking action. This is often what leads them to maintaining their old, self-destructive habits, simply because it’s familiar. Knowing that we will wake up and feel that same pain or behave with the same dysfunction is comforting in some twisted way; to our fear-stricken brain, any certainty is better than waking up and not knowing what will happen. The brain tries to avoid uncertainty, since that is where danger to our survival can pop up. This is further compounded by consciousness, we have the power to attach a negative story to the uncertainty (e.g. death) to the degree that it shapes how we perceive the world and act within it.
Between environment and ambiguity, as well as their synergistic, negative-spiraling effects, people live life after life “kicking the can down the road”, not taking responsible or action to make a positive change in the world.
As a result, it seems like “success”, or “accomplishment” is only for a select few and that we are “not cut out for it”.
This is where Effective Living comes in.
Effective Living is meant to help address the ambiguity and focus entirely on what is in our control. It aims to promote an understanding of the world around us and our life-situations from a place of non-judgement and acceptance. From this acceptance comes conscious awareness (i.e. lack of resistance), and therefore, more effective/quality action. We can’t change, long-term, anything that hasn’t been accepted as a part of our current life-situation. To fix a problem, is to address the problem, to address a problem is to bring awareness to the problem, to bring awareness to a problem is to accept that it’s a problem and to drop the resistance.
The universe seems to be governed by a set of rules, or principles. Living in agreement with these rules leads to living in alignment with nature, which promotes a natural state of being (e.g. health). Action that comes out of such a place will be less contaminated with dysfunction that society has imposed and far more rich with quality. It is like trying to use a toaster to cook chicken, it isn’t made to do so and therefore the results will contain much less quality. Living in accordance with nature is like using the toaster for what it’s meant for.
But how do you know what a toaster is meant for? Exploration, open-mindedness, curiosity, actively engaging, all the things that Effective Action promotes, and this is no coincidence. Because we are conscious, we must learn how to live. Figuring out how life works will promote our ability to take action that is in accordance with nature and therefore rich with more quality. The opposite is dysfunction and putting in far more effort than is needed, such as trying to fully cook a chicken with only a toaster.
To put it simply, Effective Living is living in accordance with nature. The natural result is more quality action that produces actual results.
Want to lose weight? Get a promotion at work? Improve your relationships? Build muscle? Run that marathon? Learn that new language or subject? Develop that new skill?
Effective Living is the framework that allows all of this, limiting the fluff and focusing on exactly what will promote results. It is a living and breathing framework that will be modified over time with the sole purpose of being a concise toolbox of information for navigating reality.
The emphasis is on reality, whatever is the truth, however raw or ugly, following our nature is what produces the best results. This can be seen and felt through the experiences of improving one’s health. It isn’t a coincidence that removing the “junk” that goes against our nature leads to feeling better. This is Effective Action at work in terms of our health. The same principle applies to all aspects of our life, from fitness to relationships. The key is discovering what is relevant, what is “in accordance with nature”. Just as improving your health leads you to feeling better and more capable of engaging in meaningful and challenging work, doing the same in all aspects of your life will result in improved ability to have a lasting and value-driven impact. Nature rewards those that follow her rules.
It’s important to note that the “rules of society” are not necessarily, and should NOT be assumed to be, nature’s rules or considered as living in alignment with nature. It’s quite the contrary, those rules are often put in place by those in power wanting to remain in power. This selfish act of optimizing for the individual goes against the nature of reality, which optimizes for the whole (e.g. an animal dying to serve as food for another animal). It is an abuse of consciousness, utter dysfunction in the bigger picture of reality.
What “living in alignment with nature” looks like requires a constantly objective view-point, full of questioning our assumptions and challenging our beliefs. Effective Living is the framework that houses our findings in a way that promotes ease of accessibility.
To be clear, there is no claim that the current state of the framework is ideal or even complete. It is highly likely to not be, since as nature suggests, through the Principles of Perception and Compound Impact, having more perspectives on the concept will ensure its accuracy. The work being done here is just to get the conversation started and the ball rolling. By the Principles of Simplicity, Entropy, and Reflection, the development of this framework will require an expansion before a contraction. This is to say, that in order to arrive at a more concise and truth-rich framework, things will get more complicated before what is relevant can be pinpointed and ultimately trimmed.
I encourage criticism and challenge, the aim is for truth that leads to actual results. No bullshit.
Big Idea: Consciousness puts the responsibility in our lap to ensure quality of action.
Basically: Effective Action increases your ability to achieve what you want to achieve.
The bigger picture of reality goes beyond just the individual, it includes nature and the universe itself. The reason behind existence is not known, despite what stories we make up to make ourselves feel better. The best that we can do is learn the rules to this game that we were placed in and improve our state of being while we are within it.
This is much like the Matrix and Maze Runner stories, where actual quality action comes from exploring and seeking to understand. This mimics science as well, hence the advancements in technology and our (ability to have) quality of life. For example, the reason why gravity exists isn’t known, but through exploration and an open-mind it is discovered to be a part of our reality and following the rules that govern it we can take Effective Action that leads us to the moon or gives us the ability to fly airplanes.
As mentioned before, this follows a lot of the teachings of stoicism, where the focus goes on what we can control, acting in accordance with nature, and having quality in our character.
Now it’s time to explore deeper into how to develop Effective Living.
Your Call to Action
Thank you for reading!
Why do you think Effective Living could be useful? Why do you think it could not be useful? I want to hear from you about what hesitations or doubts you have. It is up to us to make this something of value for the world. This is a place of collaboration. Let’s do this, together. 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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