As part of my normal life planning work, I try to keep a few concepts top of mind. Over the years I’ve honed the list, tweaking ideas and words, but a few enduring maxims represent the principles by which I try to make the long-term decisions that will govern my personal growth. My current six strategies include:
- Reduce consumption. The drive to possess material things exposes a hollow core that too often people try to fill with objects — it’s better to spend your energy and resources acquiring experiences and ideas that will endure for a lifetime, than on trinkets or status symbols that will soon be discarded. Eat less, purchase less, indulge less — and thereby develop the asset base to leverage better and more lasting things in the future.
- Cultivate serenity. Don’t get trapped in the drama of today. Keep a calm center, remain dispassionate about the things that don’t matter, and never let the bastards create turmoil within.
- Nurture relationships. Our social networks not only define us, but they give us access to resources of different types that we would not otherwise possess on our own. Keep a tight inner circle and a wide net of acquaintances — but curate them carefully. Cut off relationships that are negative, and maintain the ones that are good. Be a friend when a friend is needed, and accept help when you’re the one in need.
- Exhibit insatiable curiosity. Always ask why. Seek out new ideas, new people, new experiences. Try new things and be bold about pushing your limits.
- Do few things, but do them well. Jacks of all trades are masters of none. Find one or two things in which you can excel, and focus on those; don’t be such a polymath that you achieve mediocrity in a wide range of things but demonstrate mastery over nothing.
- Favor action over study. Active and conscious life planning makes a person the master of his fate instead of a victim of it, but too much planning opens the door to analysis paralysis. It’s easy to keep kicking big things down the road, telling yourself you need to keep thinking about it, but the key to a truly self-directed life is to do and not merely think. Develop a bias for doing.