One of my goals is to struggle well. Yes, it’s vague. But it’s what I genuinely believe in. To me, being able to struggle well is the way to live a good life.
In another area — take money, for example — my goal is to invest 25% of my income for the long-term. Yours might be different. To my dad, it’s about having a roof over the head and foods on the table.
Clearly, we all have different goals in life and want to accomplish different things.
But based on my observation, there are fundamentals in life where if you get them right, you get to accelerate in light speed and guaranteed with a life well-lived.
Get Your Focus Right
I was reading a book about Stoicism over the past few months (Thank you, Jonas) and one simple idea stood out to me.
Focus on what you control.
This simple idea is the core of Stoicism. We often spend too much time and energy focusing on things that are outside of our control — and they inevitably lead to false expectations and then, disappointments and resentments.
- We yell at the rude drivers who cut us off.
- We refresh our feeds every minute to check how many likes we get on our Instagram post.
- We judge people on the TV before we even assess ourselves.
Instead of expressing ourselves outward, we should always look inward. Because ultimately, the only thing we can control is ourselves. We can’t control our environment and circumstances, but we can always control our reaction and action.
On a deeper level, there are things that fall within our circle of control (total control), our circle of influence (partial control), and outside of our control.
- Circle of control: Our judgment, reaction, and action. In Stoicism, they are virtues like courage, wisdom, justice, and temperance.
- Circle of influence: Immediate building blocks of a comfortable life like good health, finances, and relationships. (We’re going to talk more about this part later.)
- Outside of our control: External things like fame, status, and other people’s opinions.
The secret here is to focus on the most inner layer, improve the second layer with little to no attachment, and ignore the outer layer at all costs.
Master Your Work
We’re spending more than half of our lifetime at work — which means two things: 1) You have to love what you do and 2) You need to get really good at it.
Notice that I’m saying “love what you do” instead of “do what you love.”
The truth is that most of us don’t know what we love — at least in the beginning. At the same time, it takes time to cultivate the love for our work. There is no way for you to love what you do if you don’t do it in the first place.
And the best way to love what you do is to get really good at it.
In his book Mastery, Robert Greene calls this finding your life’s task. Here are a few (oversimplified) tips to help you navigate the process:
- At first, learning is your first and foremost purpose. Choose places for work and positions that offer the greatest possibilities for learning. Avoid the urge to get attention, impress people, and prove yourself at all costs.
- As you gain skill and confidence, move to a more active mode of experimentation. Force yourself to do so before you are ready. You are testing your character, pushing past your fears, and developing a sense of detachment from your work — looking at it through the eyes of others.
- With time (decades), you’ll be able to blend the two essentials — one, a high level of knowledge about a field or subject; and two, the openness and flexibility to use this knowledge in new and original ways — to create your own work of mastery.
At the end of the day, the process of finding your life’s task is not about following your passion. It’s about testing things out and playing into your strengths to develop skills through continuous learning and improvement.
With that, you get to become so good that no one can ignore you.
Manage the Building Blocks
I’m going to quit being philosophical and get back down to the basics. Focus on what you control and master what you do takes time. What about something that is more down to earth? Something we can work on to improve immediately?
Our health, money, and relationships. I called them the building blocks of a good life.
- If you don’t have good physical and mental health, you’re going to be miserable.
- Good financial health allows you to stop worrying about survival and enables you to think about bigger problems and ask better questions.
- Healthy relationships with others are what makes your life meaningful.
Yes, we might not have full control over them. We don’t know when we’re going to get sick. We’re not certain if you’re getting fired the next day for unforeseen reasons. We can’t be sure the people around us will always love us.
Health, money, and relationships — they get influenced by things outside of our control, and they could be taken away from us at any time.
However, they are good to have and make up a big part of our lives. Furthermore, we do have control over our actions to partially influence the outcome we get. And the partial control we have makes it our responsibility to manage these building blocks well.
Optimizing these building blocks is too big of a topic for this article. Instead, here are some quick tips on how to get them right:
- Get healthier. Manage your diet, exercise regularly, improve your sleep, get enough rest mentally, and schedule regular physical checkups.
- Get good with money. Put in the work to become more valuable, spend less than you earn, invest for the long-term, and always educate yourself about money.
- Get good at relationships. Give before you ask, always think win-win, and make time for people.
Remember: While you have these building blocks, it’s your job to protect and manage them well.
A Good Life with Awareness and Intention
Clearly, most people have these in reverse.
They focus on external things that are outside of their control. They then hop in and out of work based on how they feel. And they disregard their health, finances, and relationships.
I would sum the above up into two reasons:
- People don’t know better.
- People are getting distracted by something else.
Now that you learned about the three fundamentals of a good life, I want to hear your thoughts. Do you agree? And what are you going to do next?