Things that have been in my mind for years have suddenly fallen together. I was walking around the office on a particular Monday afternoon, when I feel most philosophical, having a discussion with myself, when I stumbled across this answer. Like dominoes, one discovery’s momentum led to another and I found myself having this minor epiphany. Writing it now makes it seem obvious, but the value of this discovery can’t be overstated.
The pieces of this puzzle are thematically similar. Most ancient is The Purpose-Driven Life, this concept that one or more purposes are the ultimate cause behind life and every action that composes it; I was introduced to it in high school when the book was recently released. Later, at the Honor Academy, I would spy a large chart behind my boss’s desk. It detailed several goals spread across time spans and levels of abstraction. More recently I’ve been formulating a theory of Axiomatic Beliefs, which simply states that our beliefs are either baseless beliefs (“We believe what we want to believe. It’s all we ever do.”) or derived from such beliefs. Most recently, my boss tells me that he achieves his level of productivity and focus (which I lack but want) by having clearly defined goals.
And, as you know, I love my performance metrics, my plans, my schedules. My attempt to bring focus into my life and to make the best decisions of how to spend my time. Some elements were successful, others were not, and all eventually became unused because I lost motivation. Now I see that’s only natural; I was scheduling and planning without having goals, so my life was equally purposeless with or without structure. Simply put, there was no purpose for taking the pains to structure my life.
Purpose is the reason I’m alive, and the reason I make efforts to keep being alive. It is, literally, the validation of my existence. There is no meaning outside of purpose. There is a perfect correlation between the worthiness or worthlessness of my life and the extent to which I fulfill my purpose.
Goals are the natural product of purpose. My goals are the steps I’ve identified to fulfill my purpose. They can be abstract or they can be concrete. They can be goals of obtaining (get a job, start a family, learn a language), or they can be everlasting goals of perpetual refinement (improve professional excellence, become the best family man possible, learn everything). Abstract goals give structure to concrete goals, and concrete goals give structure to decisions.
Actions. Because of our animal nature, which is so influenced by emotion, circumstance, and the immediacy of the present, we spend most of our mental efforts in this level. Actions tackle the most mundane, low-level goals such as “eat something” or “do homework.” this is far removed from the high-level goals that actually give our life meaning, and some people waste their lives pursuing immediate goals without thinking of the grander scheme. I imagine they occasionally feel empty inside, and their deathbed reflections are a final acknowledgement of purposelessness.
Obviously this isn’t a complete philosophy. This isn’t meant to be an all-encompassing article on the topic, only my recent thoughts on it (This blog is called Thoughts From Whence, after all). For example, I’ve not mentioned anything about thoughts and attitudes.