Year: 2021

Aspirations, Interests, & Goals – Part 5 – The Meaning of Life

The Meaning of Life

What is the meaning of life? Is there a meaning of life? Many people have tried to answer these questions. A better question is, what is the meaning of your life? Life has whatever meaning you choose to give it. No one else can find your meaning or purpose in life. Your parents, teachers, friends, or mentors can only suggest your purpose, but only you can find it for yourself. The journey of finding your purpose in life is part of what brings meaning to your life. Your purpose keeps you striving for better and curious about the future.

Your sense of meaning in life cannot depend on others. If you depend on others, it is not personally meaningful to you. If you depend on your kids to give your life purpose, what happens when they no longer need you? When you find meaning in a group or event, you are allowing others to dictate what is meaningful to you. The real meaning in our lives comes from the personal aspirations that keep us curious about life. You can join others who have common interests, but always maintain your personal aspirations meaningful to you.

A “higher” purpose is not as meaningful as a personal purpose. Humans have developed past surviving and flourishing. These goals are not personally meaningful. We need individual goals and purposes for interacting with other people. You will find your purpose by examining your experiences, interactions, abilities, and interests. If your purpose does not include caring for others, it will not last. A “higher” purpose is impersonal, unrealistic, and imposed upon you from another person or group. It is a one-size-fits-all purpose too general to connect with individuals. Your purpose in life is as individual as the humans inhabiting the Earth.

Accepting reality is integral to finding your purpose. Your experiences, interactions, abilities, and interests will all influence your purpose or meaning in life. If your purpose is not realistic, it will not last or be meaningful. Other people will see your purpose in life through your actions and behaviors. Much of our purpose comes from caring about others. Our purpose must allow us to learn, grow, and change as people. We should not base it on a singular experience or event. Your purpose will give you a sense of accomplishment at the end of your life and avoid regrets.

Aspirations, Interests, & Goals – Part 4 – Our Goals

Our Goals

The most important part of a goal is not the accomplishment of the goal, but the time spent achieving the goal. Your goal before you start it will change when you are close to finishing it. Most people have goals related to money. They can involve getting a better job, buying better things, or gaining more power. When you accomplish these goals, you often move to higher quantity goals. Having general goals will help you accomplish more goals. When we have goals that are too specific, we often ignore the realities involved in them. Realistic goals are the best goals. A helpful goal is one allowing you to devote time to improve yourself and your environment. Instead of saying you want to run a marathon in a year, tell yourself to jog tomorrow morning. The time you spend can be short on the first day. It will get longer over time until you are spending enough time to run a marathon. The original goal should be to spend time in an activity. The activity is the goal followed by developing a routine involving that activity. Self improvement is always a worthy goal. Some things can impede our goals such as boredom, mental or physical problems, or letting failure allow us to quit. The activity involved in the goal should be something that interests you. It should not stress you out or let false steps take you away from it. You can tell people you are spending more time doing a certain activity, but do not tell them your goal is to achieve a certain accomplishment. You may have an achievement goal for yourself, but telling others will not help you achieve the goal. Your goal is to better yourself at a certain activity. The more time goes by, the better you will become at it and the more inner goals you will accomplish. The dream job people picture for themselves as a child is rarely the job they do for a living. They may get the dream job, but the reality does not live up to the dream. If you still find your job interesting after years, it was your dream job. When I was a kid, I dreamed of becoming an animator. Later, I found animating was just one thing I wanted to do. I also became interested in writing, acting, music, and editing. The jobs incorporating more of my interests became my dream jobs. It is unhelpful to set a goal of attaining a dream job. We need goals of having interesting jobs. You will have found your dream jobs when you can do what interests you most of your life. Multiple goals are better than singular goals. If a singular goal does not come to fruition, you cannot accomplish an alternate goal. The more goals you have, the better. Being the best at something is not a proper goal because it is not realistic. It is too simplistic and depends on uncontrollable factors. Most of the people who are the best at something sacrificed the rest of their life for that singular goal. Having multiple goals that change over time will ensure you accomplish many goals in your life. Failing at a goal is only a singular unattained accomplishment. The problem is not the failing, but the goal. Goals based on winning or losing are not realistic goals. If you are in a competition, the goal in your mind is to win. You do not have to state it as a goal. Especially if your goal is a onetime winning of a specific event, odds are you will lose. If you enjoy the competition, winning or losing will not matter. Your goal should be to take part in the competition, not winning the competition. We should be proud of people’s journeys toward a goal, not their successes. Your goals should be general rather than specific. If you set a specific number on a goal such as losing weight, you will feel as if you failed if you only come close. General goals of improving your skills or gaining knowledge are attainable goals. A general goal is to get where you want to go. A more specific goal is to get there as quickly as possible. I have general goals of avoiding stress, being happy, and staying reasonably safe. Rushing through life goes against my goals. People speed through life because they set specific goals of arriving somewhere at a specific time without accepting the reality of barriers that will get in their way. They blame the barriers for making them late instead of their unrealistic goals. Limits create barriers to unrealistic goals. The barriers will set limits to allow us a realistic view of our goals. Accepting the limits of our goals is important to accomplishing the goals. Denying the limits will hamper our ability to accomplish them. We cannot solve problems in accomplishing the goals because we did not accept their limits. These limits and barriers may appear discouraging, but they will assist us with the goals. The more limits we accept, the more realistic the chances of accomplishing our goals. Bucket lists and New Year’s resolutions are not proper goals. Realistic New Year’s resolutions are actions you intend to take in the next year. The goal is taking actions, not accomplishing specific goals. A bucket list is a list of things we want to do, learn, or experience before we die. We write this dream list when we are young and forget about them later in life. Our dreams may change, but the list stays the same. Unless we are the same person our entire lives, the list will quickly be irrelevant. The more general our bucket list or New Year’s resolutions, the more likely we will be to accomplish them. Self-centered goals are goals only benefiting one person. The goals may affect others negatively or simply not benefit them. Our goals should always be beneficial to other people. Other people do not have an incentive to help you accomplish your goals if they only benefit you or affect them negatively. If we have a goal that benefits others, we will be more likely to accomplish the goal because we will have help. Goals that benefit others will benefit you more than self-centered goals. Your goals should interest you, be realistic, diverse, general, and should benefit others. Goals that are too specific will most likely fail. We should see our goals as intended actions. We plan and execute goals to improve our lives. If our goals detract from our happiness or health, they will not improve our lives. Goals do not have to be easy, but we should base them on controllable factors. Setting a goal to win an award depends on too many factors outside our control. Goals should build into other goals. Accomplishing goals is about knowing what will truly make us happy when we accomplish them.

Aspirations, Interests, & Goals – Part 3 – Interests Lead to Skills

Interests Lead to Skills

Skills relate directly to curiosity and interest. If you are interested in a subject, you will develop your knowledge and skills in it. You may not be the most skilled at it, but you will be more skilled than someone who has no interest in it. Your interest will help you learn the automatic skills involved in it. You know you are skilled at something when you do not have to think about it. The more you do it, the more complex your skills become. If you lose interest in a subject, you will eventually lose the skills involved in it.

People who are told what skills to develop without being interested in a subject will eventually lose the skill. You will forget things others force you to learn. Math is a subject in school most students find uninteresting. More students would be interested in math if it involved diverse subjects of interest to them. It will not interest students to learn about equations unrelated to their lives. Finding out the interests of the students will allow teachers to incorporate math into those interests. Math skills will become automatic to students only if they are interested in math. Making lessons interesting to all the students will raise their skills and build their interest to learn more.

Did curiosity kill the cat? Cats are much more focused on their environment than most humans, so curiosity has hardly ever killed a cat. We created the phrase to keep people from being too curious or asking questions. People who are not curious dislike learning. Cats are endlessly fascinating because they are endlessly curious. People who are curious are far more interesting than those who are not. Curiosity probably saved more cats than killed them. I am a cat person, which means I am interested in cats. Cats are safe around me because I am interested and aware of them just as much as they are interested and aware of me.

Some people have skills that develop into hobbies, and others use their skills in a career. Before you make your hobbies into a career, consider the interests of the employer. Do they want you for your skills or your future management potential? Management skills focus on dealing with people and handling problems. They make more money than most employees because they have more responsibilities. If you enjoy problem solving and the added responsibility, you may be happy as a manager. If you enjoy doing something you are skilled at, continue using those skills in your hobbies. Keeping your interest in life and being happy is more important than making more money.

People can be skilled at denying reality. This negative skill will not serve them well in life. Compulsive liars are skilled at lying, but they will quickly lie their way out of all their relationships. When you cannot trust others, you do not want them in your life. People who develop reality denying skills are avoiding specific realities. These skills become automatic. Alcoholics, drug addicts, abusers, molesters, thieves, and other people who go well beyond inappropriate behavior are skilled at justifying their behavior to themselves. They only regret their behavior when they get caught. It is best to avoid these people if you come across them.

Aspirations, Interests, & Goals – Part 2 – Interests & Passions

Interests & Passions

You should always have multiple interests and passions. If you only have one passion in life, what happens when you lose interest in it? I have always had multiple interests. Some people told me I needed to focus on only one interest or I would not master it. If we master our passions, we will probably lose interest in them. Being interested in something is a never-ending process of discovery. Mastering something ends that discovery. If you are passionate about something, there is no mastery of it. When you think you have mastered it, you have merely lost interest in learning about it.

At various times in my life, I have been passionate about drawing, tigers, magic, animation, fantasy, music, acting, comedy, writing, juggling, riding a unicycle, editing, exercising, model trains, swimming, composing, atheism, and reality. This is not an exhaustive list of all my interests. I have moved on from many of these passions and have replaced them with other passions. One of my current passions is writing this book. By the time you read it, I will probably have moved on to something else. The day I stop seeking new interests and passions is the day I have given up on life.

Finding others who share your interests is an important part for making friends. We often choose our friends based on our common interests. People who find it difficult to socialize can use common interests as a bridge for communicating with others. They can focus on the interest and not themselves. Sometimes starting a conversation about your interests is enough to start a friendship. Even if you find you have little else in common with the other person, you have one thing connecting you to them. You may lose the friendship if your interest in the subject goes away. Your new interests will bring new friendships.

Aspirations, Interests, & Goals – Part 1 – Life Aspirations

Life Aspirations

Over the next few weeks, I will present a 5 part series of articles about aspirations, interests, and goals and their effect on our health. They come from a chapter that I took out my book Reality Acceptance: For Happier and Healthier Lives. I removed them only to reduce the word count of the book, but am glad I can present them in this series of articles. If you enjoy them, please sign up for the Reality Acceptance newsletter here.

Having aspirations is important to your health. You are not taking an active role in your life if you do not aspire to future goals and interests. Just living life will not lead to a satisfying life. Many people regret not living true to themselves at the end of their life. Instead of pursuing interests, goals, or aspirations of their own, they allowed others to dictate how they lived their lives. Aspirations are just as important as any other healthy choices you make. A lack of aspirations will lower the quality of your life.

We ask kids what they want to do when they grow up. Most people forget these aspirational goals in adulthood. Our aspirations will change throughout our lives, but we should never stop having them. Becoming an adult does not mean the end of pursuing our interests and goals. We may need to change them to allow others to pursue their own aspirations, but we should never give up on them. Adults who abandon their aspirations are not just abandoning their childhoods, they are abandoning a happy and healthy life.

Many people confuse needing something with wanting something. A need for something implies an untold consequence will befall you if you do not get it. A want is something you desire, but it will only disappoint you to not have it. Breathing is a need, but ice cream is a want. You will not lose weight unless you tell yourself you need to lose weight. There is no weight loss fairy to grant your weight loss wishes. You must turn your wants to needs and accept the reality of what you need to do. We do not want to pursue our aspirations; we need to pursue them.

Goodreads Giveaway Starting August 10th for the Reality Acceptance Book

I have a giveaway on Goodreads starting on Tuesday, August 10th, for my book Reality Acceptance: For Happier and Healthier Lives. For more information, click on the link below. Reality!

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Reality Acceptance by Brian Kirwan

Reality Acceptance

by Brian Kirwan

Giveaway ends August 23, 2021. See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
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Reality Acceptance: For Happier and Healthier Lives Book

Reality Acceptance: For Happier and Healthier Lives is now available on Amazon.

Reality Acceptance: For Happier and Healthier Lives

Reality Acceptance: For Happier and Healthier Lives – Kindle edition by Kirwan, Brian. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. Use features like bookmarks, note taking and highlighting while reading Reality Acceptance: For Happier and Healthier Lives.

 

Widen Your Focus

Being a well-rounded person will make you a better person. Focusing your attention on only one thing neglects everything else, including your happiness and health. Whether you only focus on politics, entertainment, technology, money, science, culture, religion, health, food, books, art, family, or other things that may be beneficial to you, other things in your life will suffer. Expand your focus and you will expand your mind. Rather than becoming an expert on one thing, learn as much as you can about everything. No one can experience everything or everyone in the world, but widening your attention is always preferable. Other people exist beyond who you know. Get to know them as people, not stereotypes or cliches.

Kids spend most of their time focusing on only one thing at a time. This is not so much of a choice as a limited ability to focus on more than one thing at once. Kids have the excuse of being kids, but they still need to learn to widen their focus as they grow up. Parents who focus their kids on a singular goal are doing their kids a disservice. Kids need to learn a variety of skills to be happy in adult life. By only focusing on one or two skills in life, the child’s quality of life will decrease. Some parents unintentionally teach their kids to only focus on themselves. We call these kids brats. Hopefully, they grow up and deal with people outside their family and friends so they can widen their focus on the world at large. If they do not, we call these people snobs.

Is widening my focus/attention going to make me more of a success? Being a well-rounded person will make you much more of an interesting person, but it won’t make you more successful. That is unless you consider happiness being successful. Most people consider money to be the measure of success. If you want to be more successful financially or just be more powerful, probably narrow your focus. People who have large amounts of money have it because they were born into money or they narrowed their focus to such a point that money was the only thing they cared about in life. They may have divorces in their past, lost family and friends, cheated and lied to others, or suffered health problems, but they had their money.

Nerds are examples of being narrowly focused on only a few things. I say this with all the love in the world because I consider myself a card-carrying member of several nerd clubs of the month. Just like other subjects, it is possible to be nerdy about multiple nerdy things. In most cases, the nerd focuses on one show or type of show. I like Star Wars but cannot tell you every last detail about Star Wars. I also like Star Trek but I have seen little of the original TV series. I was more of a Next Generation fan. Some would say, “If you don’t consider the original Star Trek to be superior, you are not really a fan of Star Trek.” So be it, I say. As a creative person, I would rather create something others can nerd-out about than focus on what someone else created.

I have a degree in English Composition I am using to write the words you are reading. In the past, I called it my Useless English Degree. I didn’t consider it useless because I didn’t use it. It seemed useless because I didn’t make a huge amount of money with it. I was at the time only focusing on the money. Now, in my wider focus on life, I see that the degree has been helpful in every other aspect of my life. I have focused on music, animation, acting, and philosophizing as I am doing now. Writing has helped with all of my pursuits in life. It has allowed me to put all of my experiences in life into words (just like the words you are reading right now).

Addictions are an extreme over-narrowing of your focus. When you only focus on one substance or one activity in your life, you can become addicted to that substance or activity at the expense of the rest of your life. No substance or activity starts out as an addiction. The more focus you give to one thing, the more your addiction can develop. An intervention is often needed to break the narrow focus of the addiction. Addictions will never break easily, but if something does not break it, the person can lose his or her life or live a life that is not worth living.

Those who narrow their focus on only one thing in life will soon find themselves unable to widen their focus to the world at large. Widening your focus is a skill that needs developing. If you never develop these skills, you will soon only see the narrow focus of the world you have created. Everything else becomes invisible. Widening your focus means accepting the world around you. The world around you is not going away so you may as well embrace it and increase your awareness of other people.

Valuing Time

Valuing time is the most important concept that anyone can learn. Valuing your own time and the time of others allows people to work together in society. Time is one of the few things that everyone on earth has in common. Everyone has to confront the finality of life. Valuing time means making the most of your limited time. When you deny reality, you are not valuing time. The goal of valuing time is being happy and healthy for the greatest percentage of your life.

You will neglect most aspects of your life if you only focus on a few. Spending more time on one aspect of your life will leave less time for the rest of it. If you value your time, you will try to distribute your time evenly and efficiently. Any aspect of your life that is neglected can bring down the value of your life. Valuing time is valuing all of your life and not letting one aspect devalue the rest. Singularly focusing on one aspect of your life will lead to an unfulfilled life. Widen your focus in life and you will better discern what values your time most.
Being bored can devalue your time. If you are forced to sit and do nothing, you can still value your time. Spending time alone is valuable for yourself and those around you. Having your own thoughts and opinions is important to valuing yourself as a person. If all of your thoughts and opinions come from others, you are merely acting as a mouthpiece for them. Valuing yourself as an individual is just as important as valuing the time you spend with others. Being bored is a symptom of being a boring person. One regret people have when looking back on their lives is not living true to themselves. Be the person who brings value to others and yourself.
Planning how you spend your life is critical to valuing time. If you do not plan for the future, your time will become less and less valuable. Planning allows you to optimize your time. When planning for the future, keep in mind why you are planning. If you are planning to spend more time at work because you want more money, ask yourself if you consider that time as valuable at the end of your life. Did that time at work make you happier or would more time with your family and friends have valued your time more? Valuing time requires you to balance planning for the future, living in the present, and learning from the past.
Arbitrary time restraints can limit your ability to value time. Most arbitrary time restraints are self imposed. If you say you do not have time to do things that value your time, that is an arbitrary time restraint. Part of valuing your time is arranging your time so you prioritize your hours in a day to allow yourself to do what you most value. Instead of saying what you “must” do, make conscious choices to do things that most value your time and the time of those around you.
The top goal of valuing time is happiness. Valuing the time of others builds the happiness of others. The more happy people are, the less they will deny reality. Happiness has more to do with the choices you make than the reality you can not change. Knowing what makes you happy is not always clear to all people. If you do not know what makes you happy, you will not be happy. Always keep in mind that happiness is not the same thing as pleasure. Pleasure is short term, but happiness can last your whole life. Planning to be happy is just as important as any other planning you will do. Valuing your time will increase your happiness.
An additional benefit of valuing time is better health. Balancing your time between exercise and good nutrition is just as important as valuing your happiness. Happiness will lead to better health and good health will lead to greater happiness. Making time to eat right and exercise is a matter of starting slowly and building. If you exercise too much when you start, you risk injuring yourself or stopping exercise all together because you are in pain. Nutrition can also take time to work into your routine. The end goal of developing healthy habits slowly is to make the habits part of your daily routine. When you are tempted by unhealthy practices, you will be less tempted over time because you will crave being healthy over the unhealthy feelings brought on by the unhealthy practices. Valuing your health values your time.
Valuing time encompasses every activity in your life. At any point in your day, you can ask yourself, “Am I valuing my time right now?” Valuing your own time includes valuing the time of others. A person who is isolated from others is not valuing his or her time. Valuing time is not about making the most of every moment, it is about valuing a high percentage of your lifetime. You will have negative moments in your life, but how much those moments maintain or decrease your happiness is up to you. If you lose valuable people in your life, you can value those people in your memories. Focusing only on the loss is not valuing those people or your time. The only person who can say if you are valuing your time is you. You must accept the reality that time is finite. Valuing time is important in accepting that reality.

Craving Simplicity

Most people dislike things that are complex. We crave simple things like sugar, salt, pleasure, and winning. Reality is nothing but complex systems interacting with other complex systems. Nothing in reality is simple if you examine it closely enough. When people simplify reality, they are only simplifying their view of reality. When something becomes too complex, it gets ignored or denied. Complex realities become unaccepted while they accept simple beliefs that do not exist. Their craving for simplicity overshadows their view of reality.

Reality that is complex does not make it unknowable. The only reality that people need to understand is the reality with which they interact. The average person need not know the reality of space or infinity. Understanding the reality that affects your health, relationships with others, and dealing with everyday problems only requires a basic grasp of reality. Depending upon the amount of reality acceptance in the society in which you live, understanding reality at a basic level is possible. Although reality is complex, individuals need not understand every aspect. Facts do not matter as much as understanding general concepts. Individual facts, names, and numbers are useful when talking to someone else about specific details of a subject, but they are unnecessary for a basic level of understanding.

Simple solutions only work on simple problems. The more factors involved in a problem, the more complex the solution must be. When people propose simple solutions for complex problems, they will ignore many factors. The simple solution may work for a short time or with a limited amount of people, but we must implement a solution that considers all factors if we will solve the problem for the most people. We must make compromises in dealing with complex problems. We cannot completely solve some problems. The goal in solving a complex problem is solving as high a percentage of the problem as possible. Complex solutions are not as satisfying as simple solutions, but they are necessary for handling complex problems.

Simpleminded strategies will work less well as sensible and well thought out strategies. If you quickly create a strategy, it will be a simple strategy. A well thought out plan will always consider more factors than a simple one. You may not always have the luxury of time for a well thought out plan. Emergency situations require quick and simple solutions. A simple strategy should be general enough to work in most situations. Most situations are not emergencies. Time restraints are usually self-imposed. Being late to work is not an emergency. If you are speeding in and out of traffic, you have chosen a simple strategy that will force you to make quick and simple decisions. If you get into an accident, it will be an emergency that was unnecessary and highly preventable. Taking the time for a well thought out strategy will help you make better decisions.

Craving simplicity is not a problem as long as you accept the complexity of the world. Understanding the complexity or offering solutions is unnecessary as long as you accept the entire reality of a situation. Complex problems involve many factors. Many of these factors will include other people. Each person must consider multiple factors to finding a solution that will satisfy the most people. As it involves more people, the more complex the solution will need to be. We can base even quick decisions on experience and a general knowledge of reality. Having knowledge of a complex reality is not as useful as understanding the general realities of the world. Simple solutions can not solve complex problems any more than complex solutions are necessary for simple problems. Accepting a general reality will help you much more than accepting simple solutions that do not address all the factors involved in complex problems.

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