Question! What is that one tiny but major, basic but elusive secret to being a happy, successful, level-headed professional and human being?
Answer: According to research and this article by Farnam Street, it’s by working with keeping the basic principles of how the world functions in mind, and aligning one’s actions in that direction. Now that might sound confusing, generic and somewhat vague. Let us delve deeper into this.
We will start by taking a very general example. We have all heard truisms like ‘health is wealth’ since ages. We know being healthy is a basic step to living a good life- everything else comes secondary. We know that without good health, we can’t enjoy the fruits of our labour. And yet, if we were to be honest with ourselves, how many times do we neglect our health in the day-to-day life? We forgo little chances of leading a healthy life. We scroll endlessly on our phones late into the night, or decide to keep the homecooked lunch on the side and opt for that vadapav.
Or consider waiting. Investments, be it financial or personal, take time to show results. We must wait a bit. We know this. But do we have the patience or willingness to wait?
Or how kindness leads to kindness, and fire leads to more fire.
Do you find yourself thinking of similar universal principles? Think principles around return of investments, savings, compounding, effort-reward, reciprocity of actions and so on.
Our peculiarity as human beings is that we tend to ignore these basic universal principles a lot of times. We know that we are ignoring, but we continue to ignore, and sometimes only follow them when we are forced to.
No one is an exception to these rules. Everyone needs to put in effort to live a healthy life. Everyone needs to wait for their investments to come to fruition. Everyone needs to put in effort to maintain and improve the status quo, whether we are talking about our professional or personal life. There are no exceptions to these universal principles of effort and returns.
Instead of aligning our actions to these universal principles, we tend to steer away from them, even when we know it’s not a good idea.
Where the Magic Lies:
The magic of universal principles and sticking to them is that once we start aligning our actions to them, the world will do the work for you.
All you need to do is align your actions to these universal principles. Nothing complicated. Whenever confusion arises, all we need to do is remind ourselves of these universal principles and align our actions to those, the rest would just be noise.
Nervous about an interview? Just think about the universal principle of effort and returns, and work on it accordingly. The rest will fall into place.
Confused how to approach a supposedly difficult client? Just think about the universal principle of reciprocity of behaviour, and approach them with a behaviour that you’d want them to reciprocate. The rest will figure itself out.
Wondering why a project seems stuck? Just think if you have waited long enough for the investment to show, and if you have waited long enough, think about the alignment that we talked about in our older article about working hard easily.
One could also think about this in micro terms. Consider your office or field of work as a world. How does this world work? What are some ‘principles’ that seem to be embedded in its functioning? Find those out, and align your actions to those principles, and chances are, you will be pleasantly surprised by how perfectly and easily it all fits.
‘Alignment’ is the word to keep in mind. As we align our actions to how the world (and the multiple ‘worlds’ we inhabit) works, and stay true to ourselves, the world will do its magic for you.