I watch my share of television. I eat my share of unhealthy food. I find plenty of ways to waste my time.
But I’m decreasing those things all the time.
I think a lot of people decide what to do or not based on the thing or activity in question. Will that chocolate cake taste good? Will I enjoy watching that show? Do I want to go to that party?
The problem with that approach is that it leads you to do things based on the qualities of that thing. Most things come your way because someone thought you’d enjoy them. They probably also benefit from your participation, so they show you it most attractively.
Then you get caught following your nose, doing whatever comes your way. That usually means you do what has the biggest marketing budget behind it.
That path leads to retiring unable to answer “What was my life for?”. You will have done what everyone else did and gotten the joy that created the most profits for other people.
I’ve found the more useful question is not if the thing or activity has value. Most things do. They certainly seem that way. The more useful question is how does this thing or activity compare with your alternatives. How does it compare, not does it have any value at all?
I’ve been asking myself a lot:
Does this improve my life?
That question forces me to compare things against alternatives in my life. It forces you to evaluate things by your values, not someone else’s.
I can’t tell you how many times I followed up that question with turning off the TV, pushing away a dessert, turning down an invitation, closing a tab in the browser, changing topics away from an argument, and so on. Then followed by writing something here, working on my book, calling a friend, and so on.
A common follow-up question for me is:
Will I miss it if it disappears from my life?
I can’t tell you how many things that seem important never come up again if I forget about them for a while. At the store the clothing, book, gadget, or whatever seems so useful and indispensable. If I don’t get it, I don’t find myself missing most things. More commonly I find myself inundated with more such things.
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