Many people feel lost in some way, even if they don’t know it or want to admit it. It can be someone without a defined direction in which they want to direct their life, without clear objectives (to be rich and have health doesn’t count) or without the courage to do a task that will bring benefits to their future self (even in cases when that task is essential as finding or keeping a job). The most prominent symptoms of such an illness (Living the Life of Others, LLO) are (i) the absolute inability to sit totally alone thinking intentionally and deeply about something, and (ii) the phobia of to be bored.
All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.
– Blaise Pascal
I myself consider one of those many people, perhaps not from the chronic, but I do believe that I am somewhere there: a bit lost, following a compass that has a different North every day. In addition, I see people around me, even those in my immediate environment, have also completely lost their purpose, their will, their goals. I’m sure they’d be more understanding of me, as I’m sure I think I’m not doing so bad when in fact I might be the worst. Even so, I cannot stop telling myself and telling them, even if only telekinetically: Get up! Stop condescending to yourself, stop justifying yourself, identify what you want and work for, put weaknesses aside, cultivate a strong character, cultivate integrity: a little each day, it does not have to be in a week or a month. The best thing is that, no matter how much the defective compass has diverted us from the initial route, with small impulses of will and abstinence from distractions, day after day we can build that character and that strength that makes us regain control of our lives. When we put intention and resolution into what we do, it’s like climbing a giant tree: no matter how many branches diverge we will always reach the top, we just have to follow the right direction.
He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.
– Benjamin Franklin
All these thoughts about the direction and objectives of life stem from some time that I have had with myself these days reflecting on the subject, added to my always perennial desire to improve as a person. I have come to the conclusion that in my case the demotivation comes mainly from three edges:
- The lack of time alone with myself thinking, reflecting, and establishing new paths to discover and take to direct my life.
- The weaknesses of character, commitment to myself, self-control and discipline, resolution in the decisions I made.
- The excessive consumption of information (almost all of it absurdly irrelevant) on social networks, mainly YouTube.
The third edge is itself a consequence of the first two, but its analysis is interesting. Due to the lack of discipline and character, when what I have to do involves some intellectual effort, it is easier and more pleasant (in the very, very short term) to opt for the dopamine injection of a video; especially if the message of this is that “you shouldn’t demand so much of yourself and that not doing things is fine… someone will do them one day, the world is not going to end because of that… by the way, you can watch my other video that I’ll leave you here.” This constitutes a pure source of distraction that feeds back to edges one and two, because when we falter once we generally enter a spiral of demoralization and disorder. Think about how many videos or posts we dedicate our attention to daily without these giving us anything positive in return, or very little compared to what we are not doing to see them. Who of the great personalities of humanity has needed (or used) the information given in a Youtube video or an Instagram post? The answer is none, simply because they spend most of their time thinking, planning, writing, acting, socializing, etc., in the issues and circles that interest them, not listening to what others are saying about a piece of news or some other video they have seen. Of course, copying what others do is neither a good approach to life, I’ve just made a point with it.
And yes, it is true that saying that you are not living your life is something with many interpretations, because obviously whatever you do in your earthly space of time is, by definition, your life. What I mean by this is that what you are doing is not intentional, you are not acting, you are not at the helm, you are simply reacting. And I don’t mean that you have to be 100% productive 100% of the time: it’s impossible, it's toxic (although very beneficial for the productivity of those who could do it). Nor do I speak, it would never occur to me, that 24/7 work is the key to success and that everyone who succeeds is because they have worked harder than others for it, because I recognize that random and highly improbable events play an essential role in our lives: being at the right time and in the right place is decisive in exposing ourselves to positive Black Swans. Let alone say that we have to plan each step of our future life and stick strictly to it, because firstly it is a utopia, and secondly it would be extremely boring to know what is going to happen all the time without room for surprises and emotions.
What I mean when I talk about the LLO phenomenon is, for example, when we fall into the evil clutches of those channels or influencers who are dedicated to giving points of view on, and/or analyzing, minute details of certain situations. We can spend days involved in hate speech and extremism without realizing it, even believing that they are right and that they know what they are talking about, for the simple fact that that person presented us with a point of view of a “problem” that we almost never know. It has not affected us or them in real life either, but it generates indignation to us that it can happen and therefore it captures our attention. The rabbit hole we entered is endless. If one thing is clear to me, however, it is that none of the “problems” discussed in these spaces come remotely close to the suffering of people who go hungry, or those who suffer hardships due to wars, or those who live the places contaminated by radioactivity and die early. I don’t know if they do it unconsciously, but the strategy is always to take a topic that they’ve seen somewhere else, that’s trending in some way, and identify those little details and flips that they can take advantage of to “create” content (i.e., generate indignation).
For some reason we forget that the goal of an influencer’s existence is simply to sell us something. We forget that they are the new marketing billboards, the most efficient ever created. We know that the lives they lead, the places they visit, the products they recommend and the goods they use are subsidizing them with the attention that you give to their publications, this when they have not been given or lent to them by those who try to sell it to us. Basically, with our attention we are making donations of thousands of dollars so that they can live better and we continue to see how well they are doing (or with what new problem they come —to outrage us—, to “inform” us of what happens in society). Similarly, one of the most false things I’ve ever seen is when an artist, especially Latin singers, thank the fans for making them what they are today and tell them that they love them (literally): I don’t think I’ve heard words emptier. Then when they get off the stage they run towards the car with the darkened windows and get away before some fanatic desecrates them with their dirty hands.
However, social networks are not to blame for the problem (it would be very easy), they are not the malevolent tools designed by Reptilians to attract our attention like hypnotists, well maybe the thing to attract our attention is true. And I affirm this knowing him from good ink, from having lived 25 years in Cuba without social media, and with problems similar to those of edges one and two. In my family (and most of the others) the social media were the news that told you everything that happened, and still does. It is incredible how the people there believe more in what they are told by the (un)informative system (unique and subordinate to the State) than what they see with their own eyes on a daily basis. They haven’t been sold a single potato for 5 years, but they do believe that the plans have been overachieved as the news reports; they believe that things will improve and that this measure or that new law will put an end to a certain problem, when they have seen nothing but destruction since January 1959. All this has a common cause: it is much easier to let oneself be directed and assume a reality, then to think and discover it for yourself.
Resolve and temperance are two of Benjamin Franklin’s so-called 13 principles for success. If we unite them with time to think and reflect empirically for ourselves about who we are, our surroundings and what we want, there is no way that we can fall into the trap of being living the lives of others, that is, giving our will, attention, dreams, time and opportunities to others so that they can continue satisfying our desires to see them increasingly successful… There are people who feel happy as long as so-and-so wins a Grammy or buys a new house. Don’t you think we could aim for something more?
I have full confidence in the results of a gradual but constant growth. An hour that we take away from social media or any other distraction and use it to reflect on ourselves and/or write each day will make a huge difference at the end of the week. Then, at the end of the month, the difference will be more notable, and even greater at the end of the year. We just have to be disciplined enough to do something productive every day, in the time we used to use for something unproductive before. The avalanche of results that this will generate will be enormous. Once again, it is not about being productive 100% of the time (although if someone can that would be ideal), it is about taking the necessary time to reflect and live an intentional life, our own, not subject to that of others. It’s about thinking for ourselves, not living dependent on the lives of others, or the small problems that some invent to give meaning to their lives and then want to involve us in them.
I think it is essential to sit alone and think about not just what I want in the future, but what I have to run away from, and what I am willing to suffer for (in the sense of making an effort, doing work). Write things down, turn them into projects with actionable tasks, assign them a time (schedule) to do them in the future, and resolve to work on them. That’s the key. No one said it was easy, but 10 minutes every day is all it takes to start the avalanche. When results start to show up, I firmly believe that one will feel more attracted to the tasks leading to more positive results and enriching our self, than seeing a video or a post on social media. It is all about making a switch of the dopamine source. Let’s get to it!!!!!
Is time money?
Wouter Groeneveld, from Brain Baking, makes an argument about why “Time is not money” and why spending time watching a movie or playing a video game is not wasting it, but refreshing our brain to be more creative later. I think this is one of those situations, although I don’t think one with evil claws, in which the situation has been turned around and a point of view has been put forward that justifies watching movies or playing video games. It’s not that Wouter’s point of view is wrong, that’s how he has chosen to spend his time, he needs to rest, everybody does. However, if Derek Sivers (the original author of the piece that “resent” Wouter) spends his time writing his next book, at some point he will very likely earn more profit for the same amount of time as Wouter, since he has created a good. As long as Derek has the ability and willingness to do something productive while Wouter doesn’t, it will prove that time, my friends, is money. But I don’t want to go too long on this point, because despite the fact that I already did, I don’t want to continue turning this small issue into something that may not interest the reader.
The fact is that it is not bad to watch something on YouTube, a movie, etc., the problem arises when this goes from being something sporadic to becoming the center of our lives. There is no way that with an addiction like this we can take the time to focus on ourselves. There are more interesting and easier things to do out there than to think about ourselves and what we want. There are those who will let themselves be guided, even if they do not want to admit it.
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