How I Used This Pyramid to Design My Life
Please excuse my month away from the blog. I managed to get some time to visit home, and I took full advantage of being away.
During my time away I began to think about the way I have organized my life and how I could make it into a general guideline for others to follow. What follows is my attempt to do so. Over the following weeks, I will go dive deeper into each section.
The Foundation: Avoid that Which You Dread
If you have read any literature on goal setting or constructing a vision for your future, you have some experience with the advice that is handed out by nearly everyone. It will typically look something like this:
- Make a 3-5 year plan
- Visualize your ideal life
- Construct a vision board
- Get an accountability partner
The trend with the majority of advice out there is that it is future-oriented and aspirational. Unfortunately, this is not how human psychology operates.
Important side note: I am not saying you shouldn’t do the things I listed above. Having goals for your life is important. What I am saying is that if aspirational goals are the foundation you are building your future on you have built your castle on sand.
Here’s the truth about human beings: evolution does not care about what happens to us after we reproduce. The human body is set up to get you to reproductive age and whatever happens after that is just icing on the cake. Because of this, we are pre-programmed to stick with what is safe and what has “worked” for us in the past so we have a higher chance of making it to reproductive age.
Because we are programmed to do what it takes to get to reproductive age, we are more motivated to avoid pain than to seek pleasure.
Understanding this, we can now create a better framework for achieving our goals. Huge, aspirational goals that will be realized in a few years’ time are simply not as motivating as threats to our reproductive fitness.
If you look at this framework as a pyramid, the foundation will be constructed of the things which you most want to avoid in life. This will get your subconscious mind on board with your goals rather than fighting it the whole way through.
Let’s look at an example of how this works. Say you want to lose 20 pounds and you’ve read that a low-carb diet is an effective way to lose weight. Your conscious mind understands the reasons why it works and why you want to lose weight.
However, when you transition to that diet, your subconscious mind perceives that you are starving because the supply of carbohydrate has decreased and so it starts ramping up hunger signals to get you to eat more.
At this point, if you’re trying to lose weight to look good for beach season you are going to throw in the towel. Pitting the conscious mind against the subconscious mind is like putting Taylor Swift in a boxing ring with Mike Tyson.
The best way to get through this stage is to perceive that the extra weight you are trying to lose is a threat to your health to at least get some portion of your subconscious mind to come along for the ride.
Now, taken out of context this framework would seem to create more anxiety than is worth dealing with. I, however, would argue that aspirational goal setting creates even more anxiety when you miss deadlines you set for yourself.
The purpose of the base of the pyramid is to create a motive force to drive you to the higher tiers. I have found that identifying those things that I want to avoid is much more motivating than goals that won’t be realized until I’m 40.
The Second Tier: Introspection
If you have read my blog for any length of time, you know that I am big on introspection. If you’re new to the practice, check out my series on learning how to be alone.
Introspection is a critical component of this framework as it is what will help you determine how YOU want to live rather than taking the path that society wants to point you down. By taking the time to listen to yourself, you develop an idea of how you want your life to unfold.
Once you have determined what you want to avoid introspection will help you to figure out the best way for you to avoid those things.
One of the key uses for introspection is determining your personality type. I have always been an introvert, and I enjoy working on my own. As I became more comfortable with that fact, I began to hate the idea of working for someone else.
I am not saying that your personality locks you into a life path, but when you understand who you are on a base psychological level, you can make an honest accounting of your raw talents and desires. This will help you to make rational decisions about your next steps in life.
For example, as an introvert, I was not predisposed to being a nurse where I am constantly surrounded by people. Could I have become one? Sure, but it would have taken a lot of effort on my part, and I prefer to invest my time into areas that will be multipliers as opposed to a drain on my internal resources.
The Third Tier: Skill Acquisition
I have written before about my belief that the career man is dead, and the new normal is a constant process of skill acquisition. We now find ourselves in a knowledge economy that is automating rapidly. Industries will rise and fall faster than ever and if you don’t keep adding to your human capital you will be crushed.
After you determine the things you want to avoid, your base psychology and your future desires, you need to go acquire skills. This is why the first two steps are so important. If you don’t know what you want to avoid and who you are this process of skill acquisition will be haphazard and fruitless.
You will need a core skill that serves as the guiding light for your other skills. For example, my key skillset is data analysis due to my background in biochemistry. I was able to pivot that skillset to digital marketing because of how data-rich that field is. Through that skill acquisition I can now amplify my voice online and transition to a location-independent entrepreneur.
That sequence of personal development would never have happened if I had not first gone through the first two tiers of this pyramid.
Before I went through the first two phases of the pyramid, I was on a course to be a typical career man. I was able to utilize what I learned to pivot my life and construct a career that was much more suited to my preferences.
The Pinnacle: Skill Refinement
Have you selected your skills? Good, that was just the beginning. Now comes the real work. You need to start actively honing these skills to increase your value. Only through this work can you achieve what you want in life.
Anyone who tells you that getting what you want out of life is easy most likely has their eyes on your wallet. It is difficult. It requires perseverance and knowledge about where you want to go.
Although it is easier than ever to start a business, that does not mean that it is easier to achieve your goals. You must actively hone your skills so that you can offer the most value to the marketplace.
Always remember this: you don’t get paid because you are a special snowflake. You get paid because you provide value to people. You are at the mercy of the marketplace and the only way for you to get what you truly want in life is to satisfy the needs of other people.
Harness your self-interest to cultivate massive amounts of value and then leverage the value you provide to make your own dreams come true.