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Wisdom Letter #67 | Habits, Decisions & Happiness
Hello and welcome to The Wisdom Project — your weekly dose of human curated wisdom in a world full of algorithmic noise.
Today we are talking about Building our best selves and becoming the best version of ourselves.
Last year, all through December we did a series of posts around this theme. Topics ranged from habits, decision making, behavior change and Happiness.
These are some of the most loved pieces of timeless content from that series. Hope this post helps you prep for the new year coming up.
Humans are creatures of habits. Good, bad or ugly, we are driven by them.
Most of our regular activities are driven by habits, not our will power. And there is solid science behind this as well. If we started relying on our will power to do everything then we might not be able to get much done at all.
Turns out, will power is a depleting resource.
Find out more, in this podcast from Freakonomics Radio —
If we are not deliberate about building good habits, then bad habits will start to creep in, and over time we will become physically, intellectually and emotionally obese.
Two books you must checkout around building good habits and getting rid of bad ones —
The Power of Habit | Charles Duhigg — Really interesting insights from habit research and the theory of habit formation, written in a fun irreverent style.
Atomic Habits | James Clear — Excellent practical advice on habit building in this blockbuster. Should be read at least once every year.
Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates says that algorithmic decision making is coming at us faster than we can imagine.
But not just in computers, algorithms can be used in personal decision making as well. And they especially help in weeding our personal biases in professional situations.
Ray Dalio has used them to create an idea meritocracy— A system where the best ideas win out.
Checkout his Ted Talk from a few years ago —
How to build a company where the best ideas win | Ray Dalio
Decision making is part art, part science. Especially because we are always making decisions based on incomplete information.
Its perhaps best to consider every decision as a bet. Try to assign probabilities to the outcomes and set our expectations accordingly.
Life’s a lot like a Poker that way.
Checkout Poker champion Annie Duke’s book Thinking in Bets. Excellent resource for better decision making.
Behavior change is not easy. Its a mountain to climb.
Most people often fail soon after starting their behavior change journey — All those failed new year’s resolutions.
Behind this is the phenomenon of biology called homeostasis.
FarnamStreet has a great article on it that goes deeper into behavior change and why we fail at it — At Some Point, You Have to Eat The Broccoli
Couple of quotes I loved from the post—
This an Iron Rule of life: Biological systems tend towards what is comfortable. (Yes, human beings are “biological systems”.)
Remember that anything really worth doing is probably hard work, and will absolutely require you to do things you don’t currently do, which will feel uncomfortable for a while. This is a “hard truth” we must all face. If it was easy, everyone would already be doing it.
The happiest people in the world spend a lot of time in a state of Flow.
They don’t chase pleasure as much as they chase excellence is something that they do.
According to writer Emily Esfahani Smith, achieving a state of Flow is an important pillar of a meaningful life.
In her Ted Talk, she discusses the idea that life is more than just the pursuit of happiness.
Life is about meaning.
She describes the 4 pillars of a meaningful life as follows —
Belonging — the relationships in our life.
Purpose — A sense of service towards the world
Transcendence or Flow, the idea of being in the Zone.
Storytelling — The narratives we tell ourselves about our own life.
It’s quite an enlightening talk. Check it out —
There's more to life than being happy | Emily Esfahani Smith
Do you think Happiness is something we can achieve?
There are people who say that happiness is like a skill or a habit. You get better at it with practice. Or it is like a muscle. It gets stronger with more training.
Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck says, happiness is not something you obtain, it’s something you inhabit.
From his blog post —
“Just as a confident man doesn’t wonder if he’s confident, a happy man does not wonder if he’s happy. He simply is.”
Check it out, it’s a must read — STOP TRYING TO BE HAPPY
Signing off for the week, here’s a quote worth pondering —
Happiness is not a goal, its a byproduct of a life well lived.
-- Eleanor Roosevelt
You're not happy when you're trying to be somebody else. You're happy when you're the best You that you can be.
Think about it!
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ICYMI: Last week we wrote about the wisdom of angel investor, founder, modern day philosopher Naval Ravikant —
This was Wisdom Letter #67. In case you want to revisit any of the previous 66 letters, checkout our entire archive.
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Aditi & Ayush