Productivity Philosophy Psychology

The Efficient Race Against Time


There’s a universal urge to be involved in some kind of race against time. People race to get an education, to make money, to get into relationships, to get a job, and to find happiness. Oftentimes, they end up with an education they never even wanted, money that made them more miserable, doomed relationships, and jobs they hate. Most tragically of all – they never achieve happiness.

There is more to life than increasing its speed – Mahatma Gandhi

Success is mistaken for efficiency. There’s nothing wrong with efficiency as long as it is geared towards the right objectives and goals. But efficiency can blind us. Our purpose isn’t to get to a destination before the clock runs out. Figuring out why we’re moving towards the destination is more important, because we will stay on track even if things become difficult, and even if we do not see immediate results.

Absent a fundamental reason that you can identify with, you will constantly be caught between conflicting paths. This isn’t to say that it is possible to arrive at a single, fundamental ‘why’, but it is at least possible to reach an approximation of it. The goal isn’t to find a personal motto to live by, although that may be useful, but to find the deepest urges that make all other, conflicting motivational forces irrelevant. It is a matter of knowing what you want to prioritize.

As long as you have not made clear what these priorities are, you will be tempted into embarking on many detours, while rewarding in moderation, can eventually become catastrophic.

Likely, your perception of time has been unfairly distorted by both well-meaning and malicious actors. You grow up to believe that time is infinite in scope, that you cease to appreciate the importance of being very careful with your decisions. Further, your narrow-minded pursuit of a socially fabricated ideal, such as financial success, undermines your appreciation of time. This is not to say that financial success is bad, but that it’s pursuit should be tempered with a richer, holistic philosophy of life. It is not immediately obvious why this must be the case. Society rewards the irrational pursuit of wealth, and far from being an undertaking reserved only for the weak-minded, it is a pursuit that dominates everyone’s conscious and unconscious motivations.

The culprits are many – they range from the well-meaning advice from your best friend to the industrialization of work to incessant calls to efficiency from your Facebook feed to that seduce you with ideas of quick fixes and immediate gratification. This leads to insecurity, anxiety, feelings of inadequacy and failure.

The predominant message by these ‘success coaches’ is as follows:

“Meet Tom. Tom was a loser (just like you) and now Tom has everything he wants just because he followed my simple formula. If you want to be like Tom, click here to learn more. If you wanna be a loser, you can leave.”

For every success story, of course, there are countless failures, and the swindler knows he only needs a few to make his point – or perhaps none if his persuasion skill are of a high enough standard.

What happens when we only see success stories being advertised to us on a regular basis is the illusion that most people succeed? What happens when you are only exposed to highlight reels of the lives of people you know? What happens when all of your perceptions of reality are distorted?

Oh I don’t know, incessant cognitive fixations on what is least important to you individually but most important to companies that make their money from your irrational investment of attention towards unrewarding, destructive modes of behavior?

Of course, there is an association between depression and social media use. Comically, there are videos and posts on social media platforms that warn about the excessive use of social media platforms. But consider this, there are entire industries built on stealing your attention in a no-holds-barred contest to the death, and on the opposite corner, the competitor is a few videos or articles depicting these dangers. Videos that will likely only be watched once before they disappear into the sea of irrelevance.

But this all relates to a general point about our perceptions of reality. The way we choose to kill time rather than make use of it, the way we subvert our long term priorities for short term fixes, the way we believe what we are told rather than seek knowledge ourselves, means the mass of people will become more easily manipulated. Before the age of technology, it was somewhat difficult to manipulate masses of people because it was physically impossible. But these limitations no longer exist. It is now entirely possible for brainwashing to take place on a global scale.

This is a great Ted talk that exemplifies the illusions people are subjected to on a daily basis.

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” – Dalai Lama


The Importance of Procrastinating

Being indecisive is not always bad. Procrastinating is not always bad. In high school, you made life choices that you didn’t understand because of the dangers of procrastination. But there are bigger dangers than procrastination, and that is making wrong choices.

Procrastination is only bad if it has no bearing on the final result. That is, even if given more time, you would not make a better choice, then procrastination has only managed to slow you down. But if taking your time meant that you saved yourself years of confusion and pain, then procrastination should be a virtue, not a vice.

Anything can be abused as Plato has taught us. Honesty in too high a dose can be harmful. Procrastinating can be good sometimes.


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