Robert Williams

On Taking the Most Direct Path (2 Nov 2021)

I often take an indirect path when working toward a goal. For example, if I want more free time, I might try to earn/save more money so that someday I can retire early and have all the free time I want. A more direct approach would be to reduce my commitments so that I have free time everyday. The direct path is better because it solves the problem more effectively.

Sometimes I think having more money will solve my problems. But if that were true then people with more money than me wouldn't have as many problems. They seem to have more. Money doesn't fix problems: fixing problems fixes problems.

I have a persistent assumption in my mind that the future will naturally be better than the present. That's unhelpful because it keeps me from taking action to improve the present, and also the future doesn't exist. I might die before then.

Another setting in which I choose an indirect path is when evaluating romantic relationships. I'll look for little "signs" that the relationship is going well: I miss her when we're not together, we spend a lot of time together, or many little things remind me of her (such as seeing a car like hers on the road). Those "signs" are not conclusive, and they often worry me in their absence. It's better to look directly at the relationship and ask if I want to continue it.

If you want to be married, then date earnestly. If you want to be smarter, then read good books. If you want a fancy car or house, then spend more time thinking about your values. :)

Adler said, "Choose a life you love". Embedded in that quote is the truth that we get to choose our own lifestyle. So let's be intentional and courageous, and take the direct path toward a happy life.