The book “Four Thousand Weeks” is an important read, especially for those who are poisoned by Self- help books, and those who are are harboring great ambitions for the future, and those who think that their happiness depends on what they can achieve in the future.
First, some perspectives. You are only here on earth for a brief period of time, about four thousand weeks ( or 80 years). How insignificant it is? Human civilization as we know it exists for 6000 years, meaning that your time on earth is just around 1% of the entire human civilization. And what is the significant of human civilization in the grand scale of cosmic? Our universe has been in existence for 13.8 billion years. The timespan of our civilization is just a millionth fraction of the age of the universe.
So you are really insignificant compared to the human civilization or the universe. But wait, things are getting worse. You might think that since our lives are so short, why not just make the best use of it. “Do your best and make every moment of life meaningful”! That’s where the motivation of chasing fame and money comes from; you would think that your life needs recognition and status to be meaningful. So in order to do so, you will need time management in your career; you will need to have a HUGE todo list and check off as many of them as you can; failure is not OK, slacking off is a doubly No No. There is always another ladder to climb, another problem to solve. Sometimes the problem in front of you seems so daunting, that you are paralyzed by the fear of not being able to do a good job, so might as well just don’t start!
Even when it comes to taking holidays, you will want to cram as many destinations into your tight schedule, so as to get every penny counts. You don’t have too much time to dwell on one destination, but thanks to the invention of smartphones and cameras, you can take the photos and hurried on to the next, and when you reach home you can slowly savoring the nice scenic pictures you capture, and rewind all the good memories.
You will always have the time “later”, right? No, except you don’t. Because upon returning from holiday you will immediately find yourself the next task to do, another milestone to chase, another insecurity to feed, and the “later” moment will never arrive.
That’s why we are never settled, our lives are filled with regrets, second thoughts and what-ifs. We are more miserable today despite possessing greater material abundance.
The way to get out of this trap is to realize that you are not special at all, that you have the license to fail, that whatever you are going to do, there is a high chance that it is going to end in failure and being forgotten, no matter how hard you try and how good you think you are.
No matter how good your planning is, something will come along and disrupt it. In fact a planning is meaningful only inasmuch as the disruption that happens along the way; that’s where new experience is created and where your new learning comes from. It is advisable, instead of choosing the target you want to succeed at, choose the target that you are going to fail at. By doing so you not only going to expand your risk profile, you are also stretching your limits and learning new things, things that you never knew. And even if you fail, so what? Isn’t that your expectation in the first place?
But wait, this is where the miracle is going to happen. The moment you let go of the “SUCCESS” baggage, the moment you let go of the notion that there is a perfect future and the thought that “if only I’m smarter and work harder”, that’s the moment you are going to face the reality as it really is, which is broken, unfair, full-of-pitfalls anyway. That’s the moment, instead of romantizing about your future and making unrealistic planning, you absorb the reality and start planning accordingly, and take baby steps along the way, and adjust your footsteps whenever encountered with an obstacle. Strengths and clarity will come to you, because you have already anticipated the worst.
That’s when you start to find life meaningful, not because it is devoid of problem; the life is meaningful precisely because of the process that we have to go through when confronting problems. Not because there is a guarantee that you can always solve them, or the sort of man or woman you can become after going through them, but merely because we go through the process of solving them.
Think about the last sentence and let the impact sink in. Your life is limited, so don’t waste it on living someone else’s life; your life is limited, so don’t waste it on dreaming someone else’ life. You only appear on a brief moment; as far as the universe is concerned, you don’t even exist most of the time, so you are not special. And yet, you are still here solving some problems, at this particular moment, only for this particular moment… doesn’t that make you feel special, regardless of what you are going through right now? Even if you are failing in business, relationship and whatnot, isn’t it still better than not existing at all?
Four Thousand Weeks can help to set your perspective right. That’s why I recommend you read it, read it and reread it, especially for those who are drunk in the motivational books; you need to detox!
PS: For those who are looking for action plans, the book offer a few which I heartedly agree:
- Keep a small TODO list, just 3 items. Make sure at any point of time, you only work on those 3. Don’t move on if any one of them is not done.
- If they really can’t be completed, just move them off.
- Set a timer to stop working. Since things are not going to finish anyway, no matter how hard you try, so just take break whenever time is up! Not a second longer.
- Set a target to fail, and celebrate failure. Well, no, exactly. Celebrate what you learn out of the failure.
- Forget about grandiose plan. Focus on the baby step in front of you. Things will somehow take care of themselves.
- Quit Social Media.