Freedom is attained not by satisfying desires but by removing them. (Seneca)
Fragments from imaginary dialogues
“Why do you desire x?“
“I don’t know. I just do. It’s part of who I am, I guess.”
“Can you recall a time when this desire was not part of who you are?“
“Yes, I can.”
“So the desire was acquired at some point along the way. It very likely started with a singular experience.
Who you are, your identity is a construct. And, as you very well know, by looking back at who you were at different stages of your life, identity is ever changing.
Identity is yet another instance of compounding.
One day you do something different. A new experience, an experiment. At that point, it feels insignificant. You get some benefit out of it, however small, so you repeat the experience. And then you do it again, and again, and again, and again… At every point, it feels just as insignificant, but, in time, their cumulative effect brings about a significant change:
I am the one who does y.
That initial action, apparently insignificant, was the SEED for a thousand subsequent actions.
If you think of their combined effect in terms of energy expenditure, time and money spent, physical and mental impact on your future-self, the result is dramatic, for better or for worse.
Given the significance of that first action, was it a wise choice?“
“If am to be honest with myself, no, it wasn’t. I did it unthinkingly.”
“I think most of us have a tendency to go through life unthinkingly.
One important facet of Wisdom is taking full ownership of the Process. ‘Living Intentionally’, as Cal Newport put it. Or, as someone else put it, ‘Living by Design, not by default’.
This means, among other things, scrutinizing ALL the things we take for granted, and ELIMINATING those that do not serve us, or serve us too little.
I view it in aesthetic terms. I call it Life Artistry.”
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
SEE the Macro in the Micro.
This is a little mantra/directive I created for myself as a constant reminder. It has a double meaning.
One meaning is metaphysical.
It’s a reference to a beautiful quote by Rumi:
You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.
So you could think of the mantra as,
SEE the ocean in the drop.
SEE YOURSELF as the ocean in the drop.
We could call this the ‘holographic perspective‘. Every part contains the whole.
Another meaning is pragmatic.
I love Brian Johnson’s idea of ‘Masterpiece Days‘* [<link; medium length], and I expanded it to one’s entire life: my ultimate goal is to create a ‘Masterpiece Life‘.
* I know the idea comes from John Wooden, but Brian is the meta-source – to use Leo Gura’s terminology – through which all these beautiful ideas have come to me, so I’m crediting him.
I also love (and am fascinated by) the idea of Compounding. The process by which tiny little changes add up, leading to very big changes.
We tend to regard only the big change as significant, not realizing it was the accumulation of tiny little changes that led to it. The mantra is meant to constantly remind me of this process.
Let’s take as an example the tiny little act of controlling an impulse.
One way to go about it is by exerting willpower. This takes a little effort, and you succeed… at first. The problem with impulses is that you don’t have to control just one impulse. The impulse will return again, and again, and again, and again…
This is another (hidden) instance of compounding. Each little impulse takes only a little effort do deal with, but compounded, they really add up in sapping your willpower. Moreover, when your energy reserves are close to depleted – say, at the end of a day –, the unreliability of willpower is plainly revealed.
Anything that takes effort is unsustainable.
The aim (and the best strategy) is EFFORTLESSNESS. One way to reach effortlessness is through MEANING.
When the impulse arises, if you SEE the effort of keeping it in check (Micro) as a fundamental piece in the larger-picture, in the grander tapestry of your Masterpiece Life (Macro), it not only becomes easier, but the compounding effect of the recurring impulse starts working in your favor, and each impulse becomes an opportunity, as you subtly reaffirm a new identity with each iteration.
We could call this the ‘levels-of-magnification perspective‘. The Masterpiece Life is the macro perspective, the Masterpiece Day is an essential lower level of magnification, and the moment is the smallest, atomic level of magnification, the micro perspective. We could even call it, the Masterpiece Moment.