Inner Space

As the year draws to a close, people start to reflect on the highs and lows of the past 365 days, but even more importantly, they begin to create visions of a better future, a better them. The lessons of the past are quickly swept aside to make room for the fantasy of a perfect future. The quintessential components probably involve getting in better shape, adopting a mindful practice, launching a "side hustle" and eating healthier.

(As a side note, I think these activities are illuminating the kind of society we live in and the stuff we value - or the stuff we're conditioned to value. We're sedentary, so we literally need to add movement to our calendars; we're stressed, so we need to find ways to relieve it; we're in a chaotic economy, so we need to have multiple sources of income.)

The infamous New Year's Resolutions became a cultural meme at this point.
Of course, they're not the only unrealistic "self development" programs (see the 75 Hard craze.) Everyone knows they don't stand a chance of sticking to these wild goals, but their gravitational pull is so strong barely anyone can resist them. How could one deprive oneself of the once-a-year opportunity to dream big and aim high?!

But why do we even bother, if experience tells us we're likely to fail?

My theory is that their appeal lies exactly in their unattainability. Slow and gradual change is not nearly as sexy as a radical overhaul of your life. We're seduced by the idea that "this time is going to be different."

So should we abandon them altogether?

Having goals and a general direction in life can be a positive way of navigating uncertainty and keeping your trajectory on the right path. But I think the problem lies in the approach. Instead of starting with zero, or from scratch, we can build on the character traits and natural strengths we already possess.

And instead of obsessing over building the habits other people insist we must have, we should get clear on what we wish to accomplish in the future, and tie it with a profound why. As Nietzsche famously said, "he who has a why to live can bear almost any how." This way, if we have a meaningful purpose, we'll naturally mold ourselves to fit the kind of person that could achieve that goal. We won't have to trick ourselves with all sorts of methods to do what we need to do, because that's already what we want to do.

I personally don't think that any amount of working on your habits, willpower, "dopamine diets," or even "small steps" can replace the powerful feeling of working towards a meaningful end that's tied with who you wish to be as a person and what you stand for.

Timeless Content

Your Life in Weeks
Wait But Why | 5 minute read
Your life in weeks
A classic post in the unmistakable style of Tim Urban, merging beautifully humor with existential musings. I thought it was suitable to share this one given that we're at the end of the year and this time usually calls for reflection on our lives.

Tool for Thought

Write a letter to your future self

I've been writing letters to myself for more than 10 years, usually to be read in one year's time. Back then, I didn't know you could use a website to do it, and I preferred to write by hand anyway, as a personal touch.

FutureMe lets you write a letter to yourself and have it arrive in your inbox in as little as 6 months, or as much as 10 years. It's one of the best feelings to receive a note from a past version of yourself, giving you a portal into how you used to think, what preoccupied you at the time and what has changed since you wrote it.

Joan Didion confessed that she writes to “remember what it was to be me: that is always the point.” Well, I think we often forget what it was like to be us. A letter can help remind us.

And if you're feeling uninspired, this article will offer some suggestions on what you could include in your message.

Picture of the Week

The same place in four seasons.

Quote I'm reflecting on

Perhaps that is where our choice lies—in determining how we will meet the inevitable end of things, and how we will greet each new beginning. (Elana K. Arnold)

Questions for you to ponder

What's one thing you wish to leave in 2022?
What's one thing you wish to take with you in 2023?
Thank you for reading. Wishing you a brilliant New Year's Eve!

Until next time,
To respond to this email, just hit reply. I'd love to hear from you.

If you think someone you know might enjoy this newsletter, please share it. If someone else forwarded this to you, you can subscribe here.
Email Marketing Powered by MailPoet