Picking your Direction

It isn’t easy to pick where to go in life. Part of this difficulty is because you can’t explicitly pick a direction as if you were picking north on a compass. Another source of difficulty stems from the fact that literally every decision you make decides the direction that you are going in. Every decision you make sets your course, by enforcing habits or by setting up relationships with other people that will endure and bring you to new places. Because there is so much you can do, and there is so much you can read on habits already, this article on focuses on a social element.

  1. Pick friends that will guide you the right way

Many of us want friends who are interesting or exciting, but that isn’t always the best. Since most of us spend much of our time around our friends, doing things with them, it is obvious that much of what we do is the same as what they do, and is effected by the kind of person that they are. But what we do in our spare time is effected just as much by our friends. Firstly when it comes to self control, people with lower or depleted self control value it more in others and depend more on people who have more self control.

But just deciding to make friends with a productive person to make yourself more productive does not necessarily make it so that you will be friends with that person. Studies show that when people do something together they report liking that person more than before doing the activity (no suprise there), whether that activity is abstaining from breaking rules together, or breaking rules together. So to help be friends with a productive person who will in turn make you more productive, you need to already be slightly productive.

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Jim Rohn

2. Tell people that they are aspirational

Whether it is their ability to network, their work ethic, their calm under pressure or their skill in a particular area, tell them that you aspire to have the same ability as them. This can help in many ways: Firstly, they could offer tips or information about how they do it, giving you a chance to learn from the best. Secondly, you will often be surprised as to the distances people go to help people out. You might get invited to an event, or get introduced to someone useful, but complimenting someone by telling them that they are aspirational will make them feel good, and they will link that feeling with the idea of you, and then they will look to replicate that feeling. The downside of telling people about your goals is that it actually makes you less likely to achieve them. While we don’t know why this is, it has been proven by many studies (see links at the bottom), and it echos the advice of my highschool English teacher talking about creative writing; “Don’t tell, show.”

3. Be the kind of person you want to be

It really is that simple. All that is required is a bit of conscious effort. Want to be the kind of person who works in coffee shops? Go work in a coffee shop. Want to be the kind of person who goes to museums? Got to a museum. The only thing that makes a person into the kind of person who does “A” is the fact that they do “A”. This doesn’t need to be just for going places, but also for doing things. The most useful way that I have found to apply this is by applying it to my online browsing. When I find myself browsing on Facebook, I ask myself “Do I want to be the kind of person to browse Facebook?” or even, more specifically “Do I want to be the kind of person to be browsing Facebook at 4pm on a weekday?”

tldr: Write down your goals, keep them secret, spend time around people you want to be more like.