Losing Meaning: Part One

There are more than six billion of us now, no wonder that each of us is not that valuable anymore, or at least it feels that way. It is almost like being a commodity, when supply is high, but demand is low. Depreciation of our value comes from many factors, including globalization, advanced technology and social norms.

More and more we feel ourselves easily replaceable. Think of restructuring, lay-offs and outsourcing. You don’t like you job or your salary? No worries, we’ll find your replacement in a heartbeat, there are a lot of you out there.  Suddenly you are no longer needed. Now it is called lean, flexible and streamlining.

Even if you have a job, do you really feel it is meaningful? Does your organization bring real value to the world? Are more people happier because of what you do or is it the other way around? Do you feel like your skills and talents are aligned with job responsibilities? How many people hate their jobs, but  think that there is no way out? They have huge bills to pay and  it is hard to find another job. Millions of people are stressed because of all of that, whether they have jobs or they don’t.

The majority of jobs lacks any creativity, does not utilize our talents, gives no freedom and incentives that are structured incorrectly. Then many organizations have vague mission statements, which are useless. Do you ever feel like a small piece of a big mechanical machine that would run perfectly without you? It is mainly because we don’t get appreciated or valued for what we really are – live humans with our own ideas and desire to be useful.

Technology makes things easy, but unfortunately we don’t appreciate what we get without effort. That doesn’t mean we don’t need automated processes and tools, etc. It just means that we can’t apply them to everything in our lives, because then we wouldn’t feel worthy of anything. We can’t eliminate all effort altogether, so that life is super easy. What will be the point of even getting up every day if everything could be automated? If technology does it all for us, imagine The Matrix but according to our own will: we will just stay in beds and our atrophied physical bodies will be connected by tubes and cables to the machines. Our meaning and value will be zero, except for body heat. How good is it for a life with no effort?

Three types of life

The idea of categorizing our lives is not new, it was done by many: from Aristotle to Dr. Martin Seligman. I find it very helpful for understanding the world and our place in it. Here are three types in short:

1.Life of pleasure/pleasant life
2.Life of practical activity/good life
3.Philosophical life/meaningful life
 
And here is more description:
1.Life of consuming and taking, when we try to get as much as possible for our own pleasure. Think of any leisurely vacation you’ve taken, eating good food or watching TV.  It it natural to pursue this kind of life mainly in the early stage of your life. Think of a baby who consumes all the time. This type is easy as it doesn’t require much effort, it is self-serving, and it has mostly short-term effect which means diminishing returns (you need more or better of what you consume to be happier next time, otherwise you’ll get disappointed).
 
2.Life of doing or producing. It could be either work or hobby, when we try to excel at something by learning, or improving our skills. Sometimes we get into flows, when we are engaged in some activity and lose track of time, because our strengths match the task or challenge. People may experience flows while they do reading, running or working on a project they like. This type is not easy, as it requires effort, but it is still self-serving, and it usually has medium effect. Of course, people are happy with their hobbies and their work accomplishments but as at some point they reevaluate results of their activities/success and get a feeling that is not enought.
 
3.Life of giving or making positive effect on others and the world around us. This type means serving others or making them higher priority than yourself. It could be volunteering, helping those in need, making product that improves quality of life, leading an organization with some high purpose or defending somebody’s rights. This requires more effort that othere two types, it is not self-serving and it has long-term effect.

 Happiness is a combination of all three, combinations differ for different people, but the most long-lasting happiness is derived from type three, so make sure you have type three activities in your life.

Three Types of Life

The idea of categorizing our lives is not new, it was done by many: from Aristotle to Dr. Martin Seligman. I find it very helpful for understanding the world and our place in it. Here are three types in short:

1.Life of pleasure/pleasant life
2.Life of practical activity/good life
3.Philosophical life/meaningful life
And here is more description:
1.Life of consuming and taking, when we try to get as much as possible for our own pleasure. Think of any leisurely vacation you’ve taken, eating good food or watching TV. It it natural to pursue this kind of life mainly in the early stage of your life. Think of a baby who consumes all the time. This type is easy as it doesn’t require much effort, it is self-serving, and it has mostly short-term effect which means diminishing returns (you need more or better of what you consume to be happier next time, otherwise you’ll get disappointed).
2.Life of doing or producing. It could be either work or hobby, when we try to excel at something by learning, or improving our skills. Sometimes we get into flows, when we are engaged in some activity and lose track of time, because our strengths match the task or challenge. People may experience flows while they do reading, running or working on a project they like. This type is not easy, as it requires effort, but it is still self-serving, and it usually has medium effect. Of course, people are happy with their hobbies and their work accomplishments but as at some point they reevaluate results of their activities/success and get a feeling that is not enought.
3.Life of giving or making positive effect on others and the world around us. This type means serving others or making them higher priority than yourself. It could be volunteering, helping those in need, making product that improves quality of life, leading an organization with some high purpose or defending somebody’s rights. This requires more effort that othere two types, it is not self-serving and it has long-term effect.

Happiness is a combination of all three, combinations differ for different people, but the most long-lasting happiness is derived from type three, so make sure you have type three activities in your life.

Hello world!

This morning I felt sad because my parents were leaving after visiting me for several weeks. I haven’t seen them for almost two years and now having them closeby, laughing with them, getting their comments was so familiar and comforting, that I didn’t want them to leave. At work even after consuming a lot of coffee I didn’t feel super productive, something was off.

During lunch though things changed. I looked at the glass roof in the atrium of our building and it was sunny, really sunny: sunlight penetrated everything around me and made all bright. During meeting I was asked to write executive summary for two pieces of the project, and I was intrigued and challenged by the task… and kind of inspired to turn my brain up to its full volume and start creating good stuff. By 5 PM I finished the slides and was pleasantly satisfied with their quality. When I left the building the outside world enveloped me with its deep warmth, I felt like in oasis, even though I was in a trolley full of people. I thought everyone was smiling and enjoying this weather too.

I headed to the technology workshop on Lean Start-up Cycle. By the time I got there, the presentation part was over, but the reception part was on going: interesting people discussing their ideas either in mind baking or in making. I spoke to several entrepreneurs and told them about my idea of  creating formula for happiness. They responded with a lot of questions and positive feedback.

As I was walking from Central to Harvard Square, I thought about my parents.  We took the same route with them on Saturday, the day when some predicted the Judgement Day. My parents and I were joking that no matter what happens, at least we will be together and support each other. When I create my personal formula of happiness my parents will be counted for in it, because they do make me happy.

Hello World!

This morning I felt sad because my parents were leaving after visiting me for several weeks. I haven’t seen them for almost two years and now having them closeby, laughing with them, getting their comments was so familiar and comforting, that I didn’t want them to leave. At work even after consuming a lot of coffee I didn’t feel super productive, something was off.

During lunch though things changed. I looked at the glass roof in the atrium of our building and it was sunny, really sunny: sunlight penetrated everything around me and made all bright. During meeting I was asked to write executive summary for two pieces of the project, and I was intrigued and challenged by the task… and kind of inspired to turn my brain up to its full volume and start creating good stuff. By 5 PM I finished the slides and was pleasantly satisfied with their quality. When I left the building the outside world enveloped me with its deep warmth, I felt like in oasis, even though I was in a trolley full of people. I thought everyone was smiling and enjoying this weather too.

Parents

I headed to the technology workshop on Lean Start-up Cycle. By the time I got there, the presentation part was over, but the reception part was on going: interesting people discussing their ideas either in mind baking or in making. I spoke to several entrepreneurs and told them about my idea of creating formula for happiness. They responded with a lot of questions and positive feedback.

As I was walking from Central to Harvard Square, I thought about my parents. We took the same route with them on Saturday, the day when some predicted the Judgement Day. My parents and I were joking that no matter what happens, at least we will be together and support each other. When I create my personal formula of happiness my parents will be counted for in it, because they do make me happy.

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