For thousands of years, humans relied on religion or similar types of tribal spirituality as a guide for living their lives. More recently, society has evolved to seek more freedom and has started to reject a top-down, imposed way of living. Culture is expected to act as a modern alternative, but many feel lost or demotivated without the stronger guidance that existed in previous societies.
To fully enjoy your new freedom, extra work is required: You need to take time to reflect and to give shape to your own life guide. You need to write your own instruction manual: A document that defines what is your purpose in life, your most important values, and rules and strategies to help you grow in the right direction.
What’s the purpose in life? A question without a correct answer, but still worth asking: If you can find an answer that you believe in, it will give you strength to face the biggest challenges and energy to pursue the greatest opportunities.
Living a flourishing life should be your ultimate purpose. Why? Being alive is the greatest privilege and making the most out of it is the only reasonable behavior. You must live a flourishing life.
The definition of a flourishing life will be different for everyone, but I believe in some core characteristics that are applicable to everyone:
Beyond these points, each will find different ways to live a flourishing life. Many have devoted their own lives to this question and we still haven't found the answer. It is normal that your idea differs from mine or from that of others.
In my case I believe in three core pillars for a flourishing life, and I believe they can work for you too: Skill, freedom, and community.
Living a flourishing life is already a great challenge, especially in the earlier stages of life. Know that it is more than enough for many and don’t feel pressured if you feel this requires all of your energy. It is okay if you can’t strive for more right now.
If you are lucky enough to have some energy to spare, the next logical step is apply to others the same reasoning you applied to yourself: Your secondary purpose must be supporting others in reaching a flourishing life. This includes helping both current and future humans.
Depending on your situation, you can focus on your close family and friends or expand this ambition to helping bigger communities of people.
Same as with your own life, you should support others in developing their skills and in enabling them to choose their path with freedom. You should also participate in developing communities around your family, friends, or others with aligning interests.
In order to enable the flourishing of future people, you should not forget about caring for nature and the only planet where human life is possible: Earth.
Reflecting on and believing in a life purpose is the root for everything else in this guide. Without it, it’s impossible to make choices on your values, priorities, and important life decisions.
It can also provide strength to face difficult challenges, and energy to pursue exciting opportunities and long-term projects.
Cooperation and reciprocity are required ingredients in a flourishing life, and for the flourishing of others and human society in general.
On top of that, humans have evolved to feel good when being social and “good” with others. Feeling good and calm is one of the main pillars to lead a flourishing life.
There can be times when being good to others has a severe negative impact on your own goals or wellbeing. Just like in an airplane emergency, when you put your oxygen mask before helping others, consider whether you can afford helping others and whether doing so will put your current life position at risk.
Present is the only moment worth living but, because it will be gone in a moment, you should only focus on the future instead. It is easy to fall in either side of this apparent paradox, focusing only on enjoying the present experience or only on working for a better future that never becomes present.
The solution is to find a healthy balance between the two. Being ambitious and patient to gradually build a better future, while not spending your life waiting to start living it.
Sometimes things are as simple as they seem, but often they are not. Without falling into skepticism by default, use critical thinking and research to gain a deeper understanding of how things work and why they are like they are. Truly understanding how things work enables simpler, more complete, and more efficient solutions to problems.
Human thinking and intuition are prone to errors and you will never find a perfectly complete and correct set of purpose, values and strategies. Stay curious about discovering your own mistakes, and forgive yourself for making them. Excessive and negative overthinking can only make those mistakes bigger or take you into a mental state that slows down your fixing or learning processes.
At the same time, use that curiosity to update your life guide based on new learnings and discoveries. The goal is not for this guide to be perfect. The goal is to make it as good as possible for the present situation.
Acknowledge the urgency,
Then resist the urge.
Escape the tunnel vision,
See things as they are.
Drop the imagined limitations,
Imagine the possibilities.
Plan and prepare,
Execute with strength.
Stress is a body reaction that puts your mind and body on alert. It creates urgency and narrows your focus.
In many cases, stress is completely normal and even healthy; a critical function to respond to immediate danger. It can also be a strong motivator to take action on present or future challenges.
The problem is when it is incorrectly triggered ahead of decisions that require a long-term view and a broader understanding. Many important decisions are of this kind: Should you quit your job? Should you break up with your partner?
Try to identify when this happens and avoid taking a rushed decision because of the stress. Look for a way to have a calmer reflection and, then, make the decision with a combination of reasoning and intuition.
Important lies and secrets that need to be kept long-term and from important people can become an immense burden on your shoulders. A big source of anxiety.
It is very easy to forget how heavy secrets can become, leading to decisions that will force you to lie or hide in the future. When that happens, you are forced to maintain this alternative reality in front of others, or to finally find a way to confess.
You underestimated the cost compared to the value you obtained from that decision, or you overestimated the cost of being open about it from the beginning.
In either case, it is almost always better to avoid getting into these situations or to be transparent when you do.
This guide is a live document, always adapting to new learnings and discoveries. This section documents the most important evolutions for future reference and as a demonstration of how much it changes.
The first version is published with the following sections: Purpose in Life, Values and Rules.