Inner Space
Hi, I’m Diana Demco and this is the Inner Space newsletter about my reflections on living an examined life. If you're new, you can find old editions here. You're getting this email because you signed up on my website. If you'd like to unsubscribe, click here.
In 1933, Carl Jung was replying to someone's letter that asked him how to approach life, saying the following:

[i]f you do with conviction the next and most necessary thing, you are always doing something meaningful and intended by fate.

Few words have been ingrained in my mind as profoundly as these ones. There probably doesn't go a day without me thinking about "the next necessary thing". (This idea is also discussed in Oliver Burkeman's excellent book Four Thousand Weeks.) It's a way to check-in with myself and make sure I use my time wisely. It's deceptively easy, but strangely effective.

Jung is convinced that approaching your life like this will result in meaningful action, and that's perhaps because "that necessary thing" will keep you on track to a life aligned with purpose.

I found that asking "what's the next necessary thing?" every few hours can be a great way to punctuate my day with moments of clear reflection. More often than not, autopilot can kick in and you're mindlessly going about your day, riding the flow of convenience and dopamine. But when you pause to ask and assess, you give yourself a chance to change course and start again.

It's important to note that the answer to this question doesn't necessarily need to be an actual next thing. Maybe what you need is to keep doing what you're already doing. If you're working and everything flows seamlessly, it's even counterproductive stop and ask the question.

Also, the beauty of this framework is that it works both on a micro as well as a macro scale.

Sometimes the answer on the micro scale may be to wash your dishes, take the dog out or reply to an email. Other times, if you're focusing on the big picture, the answer may be to move to a new city, get married or change jobs.

Another crucial consideration when trying to gauge the "next necessary thing" is not to be deceived by the seeming relentless chase of something. "The next necessary thing" isn't to be viewed as a productivity hack or a way to cross off as many items from your to-do list. Rest and leisure are valid answers as much as anything else.

So, when can you stop and consider the NNT?
  • in the morning, before starting your main activities for the day
  • in the in-between moments before tasks
  • when you're aimlessly procrastinating
  • after you finish a big (part of a) project
I hope this gives you a new way of looking at how you go about your day, and ultimately, your life.

Timeless Content

What to Do With Your Life
Julian Shapiro | 6 minute read
In this lucid and inspiring article, you'll be walked through a framework of how to determine what you want to do with your life moving forward. First, you'll need to identify your core values. You may know what your those are, but you may surprise yourself that their order of importance has shifted, or maybe some are no longer on the list altogether. The author offers his own list of values from which you can be inspired, but don't feel you need to match his.

Among other things, Shapiro warns against placing Money too high on your priority list and perhaps even more importantly, falling prey of a cognitive bias known as Groupthink - the tendency to be influenced by your social circle. So you're encouraged to assess whether your goals are actually someone else's.

And if all else fails and you're still not sure which next step to take, Shapiro has one question that can help you put things in perspective.

Picture of the Week

The Castle (2007) by Jorge Méndez Blake
Jorge Méndez Blake – The Castle (2007)
A brick wall completely altered by merely one book.

Sometimes art can evoke a much more powerful message than a long explanation ever could. What's important to realize though is that the ripple created in reality is (the bump) is more pronounced than the size of the book.

Whatever you're working on right now or however you're trying to leave your mark on the world, remember that no step can be too small, because you can never know what it will add up to.

And in case you're wondering, it's called The Castle because the book used is Franz Kafka's novel with the same name.

Quote I'm reflecting on

Chuck Palahniuk on shaping the world:

The first step - especially for people with energy and drive and talent, but not money - the first step to controlling your world is to control your culture. To model and demonstrate the kind of world you demand to live in. To write the books. Make the music. Shoot the films. Paint the art.

Question for you to ponder

In the next 5 minutes, what action can you take that will add up in the next 5 years?
Thank you for reading.

Until next time,
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