Creating Value Along an Unpredictable Path

Colin Wright in his book Considerations shares a bit of excellent advice for those of us who are not 100% clear on our goals.  He states,

“Focusing on producing value in everything you do serves as consistency when all other options in the entire world are open to you. You can head in any direction, and pursue any future you want, and though you may pivot many times between ‘here’ and ‘there’, maintaining a focus on value will ensure that no wrong turn is wasted time, and no goal is so nebulous that it’s completely untethered.”

This quote really speaks to me because it highlights our unclear paths, gears us toward success with the understanding that we may not have immediate success, and helps us change our mindset by producing value for ourselves and the world.

Often times I find myself frustrated because I am not sure exactly what path I want to take in life. Sometimes it seems as though I do not have a clear direction and goal in my career, and it is hard for me to envision success or a landing point for success.  What Wright’s quote shows is that we do not have to have a tangible goal if we are 100% focused on our own growth and providing value to the world. If we focus on value then our efforts will be meaningful and we will develop new connections, learn more about ourselves, and begin to see opportunities for us to develop our own spot in the universe.

The quote also shows that success does not have to be immediate for us. It has often been written and repeated that millennials are too entitled and that my generation does not expect to work for their goals, but rather that they expect to be handed a trophy and applauded without putting in years of effort and work. Wright’s quote is a bit of advice that can help combat the pressures and thoughts  that millennials harbor to create attitudes of entitlement and expectations of quick success. Wright shows that we do not have to be successful immediately and he explains that our successes will truly only arise once we have created a habit of focusing on providing value to others. This value production will lead to real, tangible growth for the individuals, and it will prepare us for opportunities to become truly successful. It will not be overnight, but overtime all of our small victories and all of the value we send into the world will build up to create a platform of success for us.

Resistance to Changing Views

“To cling to a view because it’s comfortable is lazy and all too common.  This resistance to change is so widespread because there’s a part of our brain that tells us ‘familiar is better,’ and therefore existing views take precedence over new views we might adopt — new perspectives from which we might see the world”

 

Colin Wright uses this quote as the second paragraph of the chapter titled “Views” in his book Considerations.  The quote ties in with his principals of learning, flexibility, and the ability to understand and see the world from as many distinct viewpoints as possible.  Throughout his book Wright urges his readers to think in a more profound way about the people, events, and ideas that surround and influence them. By being a more considerate person, meaning that we take the time to consider more aspects of life than just the headlines, we can find better alignment within our life and and live more purposefully.

 

Allowing our views to change helps us find a true alignment with who we are. If we can not shift our views then we will be limiting our growth, and acting out of ignorance by adopting the simple views of the national media and those around us.

 

In the United States we have this idea that changing our views is a negative thing. It seems to imply an admission of having been wrong, a lack of integrity, and a lack of knowledge.  What Wright argues is that changing our views represents the opposite of all of those things. Simply because we have changed our view on something does not mean that we were wrong to begin with. It simply means that we were looking at something with a particular perspective, and now that we have gained more information, have made new considerations, or opened up to see something the way another person would, we are viewing the world with a new perspective.  Growing and developing new perspectives helps us act with more people in mind and gives us the ability to better think about what we pursue. Making decisions with better information and from perspectives that are more inclusive of others leads to greater integrity as we better understand the forces that influence us.

Our Shifting Views

Often times we adopt specific views on issues, ideas, and expectations in our lives, and we do not want to allow those views  to change. In some areas, such as politics, we have a negative impression of people who say their views change. We hold politicians to strict standards where they are expected to maintain the same views on all issues throughout their career.  Colin Wright, in his book Considerations, has a different idea regarding our views, “Views are temporal things, shaped by the exact perspective from which we perceive the world; a perspective that shifts every moment.

 

I really enjoy the way that Wright creates a distinction between our views and our perspective. Our background, experiences, underlying beliefs both conscious and unconscious, our socioeconomic status and so many other factors influence our perspectives.  When we do not know much about a particular topic or issue we are likely to have a very peripheral perspective and when we have studied in depth or felt the direct experiences of an issue or topic we will have a far more profound perspective.  It is from our unique perspectives that we interpret the world, and it is from our perspective that we develop our specific views on the events, thoughts, and beliefs that shape our world.

 

As we age, learn more, and gain new experiences our perspective on the world will naturally shift. By looking at our views through the perspective model that Wright explains, there is no way that our views can remain the same as our perspectives shift.  We may maintain very similar views, but out of the necessity, or views should adapt and differentiate. I enjoy bringing this back to politics because it is an area where the we should see individuals’ perspectives and views on constantly change and evolve, yet we do not allow politicians to shift their views.  It is impossible to elect a politician and expect that once they are on the job, studying issues and learning from research, that their views will remain unchanged. Throughout science as we grow and learn our views change, and this mindset should be applied to our personal lives, what we expect from our government, and the ways we approach other people.

The Expectations of Others

In his book Considerations Colin Wright addresses a topic that was very important for me to work through as I got through college. About halfway through my college career I began to really examine what I wanted to achieve from college and what I expected my life to be like. I faced quite a bit of anxiety and fear related to the questions of what I would achieve and what I needed to obtain in my life for me to consider myself successful.  Eventually I developed enough self-awareness to reflect on the things I assumed I would always have in my life and the things that I thought defined success. Through self-awareness  was able to recognize that many of the expectations I had for my life came from other people, particularly my parents, uncles, and shows like Top Gear. I knew that I had to live my life by moving toward things that I actually desired and considered successful, even if I felt as though it would not live up to the standards I had set in my head without consideration.  What I learned on my own is beautifully summed up by Colin Wright in just a sentence, “It’s not your responsibility to want the life that others want for you, and it’s not your responsibility to take on the responsibilities that don’t sync with how you want to live.”

 

What I eventually learned was that I could not let the expectations for my life that others had for me dictate how I lived. I would never be happy if I tried to always live my life in a way that was impressive to others. I would always be competing against my peers, family members, and society if  was trying to please someone else and live a life that they determined to be successful.  By deciding that I would not be tethered to their expectations, I no longer felt a responsibility to obtain a certain level of wealth or drive certain vehicles which would display that level of wealth and success wherever I went.

 

It is a difficult process to begin to understand that it is not our responsibility to live our lives in a way that makes others happy with us, or to achieve a certain expected level of success. It is our responsibility to focus on growth and being the best version of ourselves possible, as long as that version of ourselves truly aligns with our inner self. We must develop a sense of self awareness to understand what is and what is not in alignment with who we are at our core, so that we can live a life that is responsible to ourselves and not others.

Compete with Yourself

On of the most difficult things to maintain in life seems to be a sense content with where we are. As we age we have new opportunities, move through different situations, and experience vast change. Throughout all of this we watch as our lives move in new directions, and as the lives of those around us move in new directions.  It is easy to feel accomplished when you achieve something, but that sense of accomplishment soon dies off, especially if you are comparing your accomplishments to those of your neighbors, peers, co-workers, and high school classmates.

 

In his book Considerations, author Colin Wright discusses our competition with others and the way we compare ourselves to those around us.  In Wright’s perspective, it is best to judge ourselves according to our own performance and standards. The author writes, “rather than the standards changing with the performance of my peers, the only person I’m competing with is myself. And so long as I continue to grow, I’m winning.” His perspective means that we do not have to achieve the same level of financial success, marital success, or career success as other people to still be successful.

 

When we focus on our personal growth we are building a sense of self-awareness. We have to focus on where we are now, where we used to be, and what areas we can improve. This self-awareness helps us identify the change we want to see, and allows us to focus in new directions that align with the right change.  When we lack this self-awareness and compare ourselves to the successes of others, we fail to understand ourselves and where we can grow, and instead we feel limited because we did not achieve the same results of others.

 

Knowing where we are now and praising ourselves for our growth takes pressure off ourselves to achieve things immediately. I would love a promotion at work, but my expectation is not that I will be promoted within any specific time frame. My expectations are that I will continue to grow and improve each day and that I will prepare myself so that when an opportunity does arise, I am ready. That may mean that I will not get the next promotion opportunity (I may even be passed over for the next few promotion opportunities) but it does mean that my performance will continue to improve.  As my performance improves I will be able to strengthen my work and expand new skills to new areas, and even without a promotion I will gain the respect of not just my colleagues, but of myself. The growth that I focus on and am proud of will be recognized by those around me.

Life on Our Own Terms

Author Colin Wright discusses competition and the ways in which we compare ourselves to others in his book Considerations. Throughout his book, he focuses extensively on shifting our perspective and awareness inwards to better understand ourselves, and when it comes to goal setting, he advocates that we do this to ensure our goals are aligning with our inner self. If we don’t turn our reflection inward, we are not leading our life on our own terms and Wright writes, “do you want to measure yourself by the standards of others? Do you want to live your life by a metric determined by those you’re competing against?”

 

The quote above speaks to the ways we compare ourselves to those around us, and how limiting that can be. When we determine whether or not we are successful based on our performance relative to those around us we end up driving in a direction that does not lead us to true growth or the types of growth which would serve us best.  We end up pushing towards some end because it is what others in our group have determined to be desirable. That end may be positive and where we want to go, or it may fall in an area that is not aligned with what truly motivates us.  If we are working towards our goals simply to be more impressive than others or because we want to fit in with those around us, we will not be happy with the results we achieve.

 

Furthermore, when we are driving and competing with those around us we fail to see the larger picture.  Wright continues his explanation in Considerations by using the analogy of a footrace.  If you run a race and win, then you are now regarded as the fastest of that group who happened to be running on that day in that race.  You may achieve a goal in winning a race, but you may also be a big fish in a small pond, and relative to other runners in  the community you may  not be performing at a high level. Competing and winning in small groups may boost the ego, but it can also be a false feeling of success.

 

What Wright is establishing in his quote and his running analogy is the idea that success is not determined by the groups we are associated with and our performance in those groups. Driving towards success as defined by others does not help us reach places where we will find happiness and comfort. The way we reach a real level of success is by focusing on growth and learning how we can move ourselves forward in a positive direction that aligns with the inner motivations which we understand through deep self-reflection.

How Being Outraged Can Boost Our Self Esteem

Throughout his book Considerations, author Colin Wright reflects on ideas that seem to align with stoicism and his book, which is a collection of essays on various daily topics, connects with many themes from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations.  A common idea between the two works is the thought of self awareness, self-control, and understanding that you do not understand everyone’s perspectives and thoughts.  When writing about our anger and the way we occasionally show our passion through outrage Wright states:

 

“On a personal level, outrage makes us feel superior.  By becoming indignant, we’re drawing a line in the sand and declaring ourselves to be on the right side of a given issue.  We’re saying, “How horrible this situation is, and how capable I am of declaring right and wrong, and passing judgment on those involved!””

 

Wright continues to explain that this type of outrage is nothing more than a self esteem boost for ourselves because it raises us along a slope of moral righteousness from which we are able to display and pronounce our superiority over those in the ‘wrong’ camp. Our ranting and explosive attitudes release energy and captivate the attention of others, giving us an additional boost by holding people’s attention.  As this continues, being right or wrong does not matter, and we simply become outraged on moral issues so that we can continue to gain an audience and flatter ourselves. The more people pay attention to an outraged individual, whether they agree with them or just want to see someone bellowing out their beliefs, the more that individual feels supported.

 

I think that both Aurelius and Wright would argue that it is better to turn ourselves inside and reflect on that which makes us irate before making a public display of our feelings. By better understanding whatever it is, we can better react to it, and perhaps understand other perspectives surrounding that which angered us. Aurelius would certainly argue that nothing should push an individual to the point of outrage, since it is likely outside our control and influence, and since the thing itself likely does not make us any worse off. Both Wright and Aurelius would understand that the best way to handle or change that which has angered us would be to use our anger in a moderate manner by taking positive steps to improve the world around us by changing that which we can control.  Anger is a normal human emotion and one that can motivate us and push us to action in many positive ways, but using anger to increase ones platform does not help us grow or improve society. When we use anger to place ourselves on the moral high ground, we divide our society and polarize the thoughts at hand.

Living Well

In his book Considerations author Colin Wright focuses on growth and success and writes, “maybe focusing on growth — or the measurement of it — is missing the point of living well.” This quote speaks to me about the importance of not focusing on others and worrying about how we compare to others.  When we spend time worrying about others, what they achieve, what they drive, and how fancy their job title is, we either feel inadequate or we overinflated our ego.  What Wright is arguing is that all of these comparisons between us and our neighbors, co-workers, peers, and the other people in the grocery line distract us from focusing on what is truly important in life. At a more profound level, Wright’s quote also speaks about the importance of self awareness, and what we should use self awareness for.  Rather than analyzing ourselves and critically analyzing our level of growth, his quote seems to show that we would be better suited by finding ways to enjoy life and lead a positive life rather than living with a focus on constant growth. In this way it is as though the best way to growth is through an oblique path as opposed to a direct tangent.

 

Wright’s idea feels quite stoic to me and reminds me of Marcus Aurelius in many ways. I am currently working through Meditations and 2,000 years ago Aurelius was encouraging us to focus inwards on ourselves and not be tempted by desire for the things that others have which we do not.  When we are not worried about obtaining the same things that our neighbors have and when we do not spend all our time trying to impress others, we can connect with ourselves in a meaningful way, and move in a direction which fuels us for more positive reasons.

 

I think that both Wright and Aurelius would admit that there is a difficult balance to be maintained when it comes to self awareness and growth.  In previous posts I have written that establishing goals based around growth is a more effective way to guide ones life, but at the same time, focusing on growth as opposed to focusing on living a well rounded and meaningful life still will not guide an individual in the best possible direction. We are still measuring ourselves and making comparisons between our current self and past self along with others. Focusing on these changes and gaging whether or not they are the changes we want or expect of ourselves does not provide the meaning to our life that we should desire.

Successful Growth

While reading Colin Wright’s Considerations, I came across a short  sentence that read, “there’s no commonly accepted ranking system, and all a person has is their own interpretation of movement, their own ideas about how much they’ve grown.” Originally I had just highlighted the middle section of the sentence about our own interpretations of growth, and I had left myself a note reading, “growth is naturally movement.” In isolation this sentence speaks to me about our constant evolution through life, and the lenses through which we judge our changes.  We see our own growth in a way that is different from the way others see our growth, and in the end, all that matters for us is our interpretation of our personal changes and growth.

 

Placed back in the context of Wright’s book, the quote speaks to the difficulty of comparing people and success.  We all seem to want to grow toward a future that is more successful monetarily, but Wright argues that judging ourselves and others based on our income is a flawed way of gaging success.  He writes that we often use awards, recognition, and accolades to judge our value and growth, but the sentence above shows that there is no way to truly equalize and compare our growth and success.

 

When I look at myself and where I am from a standpoint of growth and movement, from the changes and evolutions I have experienced to what has remained constant or become stronger in my life, I do feel very successful. I can examine the movement in my life and be proud of the changes I have gone through even though I do not have the most impressive salary, have not won many awards, and am not a well known public figure.  Wright would argue that I am heading down a useful path where I understand my own interpretation of movement in my life, which will allow me to feel positive about myself as I direct my growth in a direction that aligns with who I truly am and want to be. Chasing growth in certain areas because it is impressive to others would likely not move me in a direction that aligned so well with my internal interpretations of the world.

Our Default Measurement of Success

Through my journey of self awareness and growth I have had to adjust my definition of success many times. As I have had new opportunities and as I have thoroughly reflected on myself and others it has been crucial for me to reconsider what success looks like. In his book Considerations Colin Wright examines the same thoughts and feelings that I have worked through. “In the post-Industrial Revolution world, money has become the default unit of measurement for growth and success and personal evolution.”

Wright explains that we fall back on income as a way of objectively measuring ourselves relative to others because it is a simple and common unit between everyone.  How much money we make, however, is not the greatest measurement to determine success, growth, and the quality of ones life. It is easy to imagine that you have moved forward in a positive direction by increasing your income, but it is possible that the direction in which you moved is limiting you in other ways: creativity, spending time with family, giving back, and maintaining social connections could be limited as one makes sacrifices to obtain more money.

Continuing on, Wright states that using money to judge the success of others is a mistake because not all of us shoot for increased wealth as our main goal. It is hard to judge ourself against others if we define success as a certain income level, the ability to purchase a certain car, or the size of the home we can afford, when those we judge ourselves against view success as increased knowledge, increased visibility in their field, or happiness in their relationships at home. Money also is a terrible way to judge our success because of the vast differences in our backgrounds and family histories.  If having a lot of money is our measure of success, then many people are successful by default thanks to a fortunate birth.

Comparing ourselves to others based on money sets us up for frustration and disappointment. Not having the best car, the biggest home, and the biggest pay check can frustrate us and make us feel inadequate. When we change success to align with our internal values and ideas we begin to work toward better goals. Rather than comparing ourselves based on an external measure that we don’t have direct control over, we begin to judge ourselves based on value that we create for areas of our life that have true meaning.  This means that we will not pursue the car we cannot afford or the house that is too large and we wont flaunt our financial success. Rather than pressuring ourselves into certain boxes, when we remove money from success, we are able to strive toward goals that help us develop in meaningful ways.