The status-quo search for purpose / meaning / impact is actually quite a misleading way to live life. It’s a coping mechanism used to soothe the bone-deep tiredness we feel when we’re existentially burnt out. Rather than covering up suffering with intellectualization, I propose a simple heuristic for living a more grounded, satisfying life in 2020. I call it: The Law of Interesting Things.
Whether we like it or not, our brains are wired for consistency between thoughts and actions. When we avoid or deny our instincts, we take on roles that leave us feeling deeply dissatisfied. For example, say I’m extremely passionate about behavioral psychology but I become a backend software engineer for the sake of status. While self-deception might be short-term fun, I cut myself seriously short by ignoring mental cues. Perhaps I could still be a great backend engineer, but relative to people who live and breathe APIs, I simply don’t care enough to commit what it takes to be world class.
Life presents an infinite stream of problems and dead ends. It’s what makes existence so interesting and also so draining. Without intrinsic joy and excitement for what we do, the day to day challenges of growth and learning are likely to wear at the soul and perhaps even make life appear overwhelmingly pointless. By taking ownership of the cognitive dissonance, we might address the root cause of our 1st world spiritual dissatisfaction.
To live remarkably, one must enact self-awareness. Resolve in 2020 to lean into the parts of life that feel especially interesting. Do what you must do to be useful, meaningful, or impactful, but don’t let responsibility confuse you about what fundamentally sparks your curiosity. The key here is to not think too hard. Notice what gets your heart pumping and fills you with excitement. Create an actionable plan to explore the themes more closely. Live your truth and you cannot fail to live a good life.
If you’re uncertain about what ignites you, the best place to start is by taking stock of your fears. We’re scared of the unfamiliar: ideas and experiences that we don’t yet have perspective on. However, by avoiding the unknown, we miss out on the greatest opportunities for self-discovery and growth. Be courageous. Ask yourself the questions that you’ve been avoiding. Have confidence that the answers will take you where you need to go.