I have yet to find a more direct route toward living a fulfilling and purposeful life than to make oblivion your enemy and to commit to learning as much as you can
I have always been what I consider to be a deep thinker. When I was young, my deep thoughts didn’t always lead me to logical conclusions or ensure that I could preserve order in my mind. As I have gotten older, my deep thoughts still tend to swirl around a lot, but I have gotten a little better at identifying where those thoughts lead and figuring out what I can do with them.
To that end, I have come up with some tenets that are front and center in many of my thoughts and ideas. I use them as a foundation to build from so that I at least feel as though I am headed in the right direction as I continue my travels through life. Three of them are relevant here.
- I try to never stop learning
- I work on understanding the world and the people around me
- I am aware of myself and how I fit in that world and with those people
Each of these foundational planks has a common enemy: Oblivion.
Every day you learn something, your life is richer and more purposeful. You are exercising your brain and spending time doing something worthwhile even if what you learn doesn’t end up being all that useful down the road. Learning is essential for forward progress in life and the process of learning is often as important as what you learn.
Oblivion, deliberate or otherwise, is the opposite of learning. It requires no thought and demands no engagement and it can trick you into thinking that your life is satisfying. Of course, when you do not have any expectations of yourself, goals to achieve, or people to get to know, you may feel satisfied because you probably will not experience much stress or worry. All that has occurred, however, is that you have performed down to the lowest level of potential and fulfillment: Zero.
Developing an understanding of the world and people around you is an everyday challenge. That understanding will constantly evolve as a result of the progression in your thoughts and of the changes in your perceptions as well as the events and circumstances taking place in the world around you. Just like a commitment to learning every day, your efforts to understand people and society and all the complexities that comprise them will be an-going, never ending process.
Oblivion, on the other hand, will ensure that you have no interest in others or the world. It will mandate that you stand in one place with no clue of what is happening nor interest in finding out. Simple? Yes. You will fall short, however, on any scale that measures the value you have created for your environment or the contributions that you have made to others.
Self-awareness is essential for you to have a healthy perspective of who you are and what you stand for. It is also an essential piece of your understanding of the world around you. You cannot develop a thorough understanding of anything else without being fully aware of where you fit and where you can or cannot relate to the people, places, and events that surround your existence.
Life is infinitely easier to navigate when you know who you are. That knowledge will help you to develop purpose and direction in your life. It is much easier to know why you are here and where you are going if you are familiar and comfortable with the person who is asking those questions.
Oblivion prevents you from even considering who you are or how you may be perceived. Purpose and drive have no place in oblivion. Being oblivious is a cop out, but it doesn’t have to be a life sentence.
When you set lofty goals, especially ones that require non-stop attention and will most assuredly cause you to fail regularly, you are undoubtedly also signing up for a lot of work and time spent reflecting on your actions or lack thereof, analyzing information, revising your plans, and probably questioning every step you take along the way.
Your rewards, however, will be ample and I have yet to find a more direct route toward living a fulfilling and purposeful life than to make oblivion your enemy and to commit to learning as much as you can, understanding your environment, and determining who you are and where you are going.
This article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.