The Arc of Life

Think of your life like a startup enterprise
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Representational Image Pixabay [Creative Commons]

We frequently call people who forge new paths to find meaningful work as entrepreneurs. Broadly speaking, entrepreneurs are people in a society who fill needs or solve problems in the world with solutions, businesses, and careers that didn’t exist before.

The ventures they begin are often called startups. Think of your life like a startup enterprise. You have faith in your ability to create extraordinary value for yourself and others. I’m not saying that you will get rich. That’s not important.

It is that you will create explosive value with your life, no matter how you denominate that value, such as in terms like helping strangers, doing something fascinating, or raising great kids.

Many of us have trouble with this outlook because we would prefer life to be safe and predictable, rather than risky. But the problem with safety is that it isn’t especially rewarding.

This is one of the findings from the research of University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt. He has undertaken large experiments in which he asks people to think of their hardest, scariest life decisions-- decisions they just can’t seem to make.

Then he asked them to make the decision from a coin flip where heads means yes, a scary commitment, and tails means no, the safe route. Most of these decisions are personal, not business related. He finds that over time the heads the yeses are much happier than the noes.

This is not advice to gamble with your life. What this tells us is that people who say yes in life get happiness rewards. The data show that the reason we avoid risk is not the potential consequences of failing or losing, but fear itself.

So when it comes to your life the way to approach risk is not to avoid it but to say yes in pursuing your goals. You won’t be successful 100% of the time, but you will find that the act of saying yes to opportunity and adventure will give you great harmonious passion for life and work and that means greater happiness. So resolve today to be more of a startup entrepreneur in the enterprise of your life.

People want to design their future, which is brand new. You don’t know anything about it.

So if you took positive psychology and some other ideas from the idea of fixed and open mindsets or the idea of grit and put them together with this design methodology, you end up with a way to kind of figure out how to build a well, a joyful life.

So it’s all about building your way forward and using design principles in conjunction with the positive psychologists’ ideas of what makes this happen.

Engineering thing assumes there is a right answer, and you have the knowable insight to be able to craft that answer in a repeatable, reliable way. Life is not like that.

We’re building this thing no one’s ever done before called the future in a space we’ve never been before, so you can’t navigate like GPS. You wayfind by trying something, learning, pivoting, trying something, learning. It’s improv.

You do a lot of improv stuff in design because life is a long improv skit. None of us know what’s going to happen. We’re making this up as we go along. Life design, as we teach it, is simply giving you the competency of life and vocational wayfinding which is learning how to be good at the improv skit called your life. There’s many good yous, but not one right you. All we need to do is find a couple of good yous, and let’s go have a fulfilled life design.

When we were building the first laptop, nobody knew what a laptop was. And we just built lots and lots of prototypes and tried lots and lots of things, and eventually, you way find to an optimal solution-- not the only solution, but a really good one. Isn’t that the way we experience our lives?

We try stuff, we get a signal back from the world-- is that working, not working? How do we feel? And then we hopefully optimize that decision at that point, and we move forward.

When you’re happy-- I mean, we do a thing called the good time journal. We do the empathy stuff. Look, if all you know is you’re unhappy and you feel completely stuck and you’ve been saying that over and over to yourself 15, 20 times a day for the last seven years, you probably hardly know anything at all. So here’s the really good news. There’s probably a massive green field out in front of you.

I suggest you  to do three things, learn the science of happiness, apply the lessons to your life, and share it with others. If you follow this formula you will develop the skills to choose hope, live a full life, and get better and better the older you get. Even better, you can be a force for bringing hope, love and happiness to others. Don’t forget that to cement all these ideas in your brain, you have to explain them to others. Starting today then, you’re the teacher of these ideas. You can and should explain to everyone who will listen that they can be happier and how to do it. When you do this, you’re building a better, happier world. And you know what, that’s a world I want to live in.

There’s one thing to note, however, which is that the last few years of life are less certain in happiness than the earlier parts. That’s the squiggle at the end of the U. True, lots of people get happier and happier, There is a pretty big group, however, that doesn’t.

They go back down at the very end. Whether you get this last uptick in happiness or go back down depends to a very large extent on your actions earlier in life. Reaching the end of the river of life can be a peaceful and masterful accomplishment if we learn how to take on the twists, turns, and currents of the water. But make the wrong choices, and the end isn’t so great.

Author is a UPSC aspirant, writes regularly.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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