Desire

I believe it is beneficial to desire anything too strongly. (Easier said than done.) Desire is a big part of human life and I am not against it. Desire is healthy. But it needs to be kept in check. Unchecked, strong desires often correlate with expectations: taking actions and expecting certain results. This can be troublesome when we take an un-characteristic action only to achieve an expected result.

I have found, in cases where I’m acting against my own nature in order to gain some expected result, two things happen: 1) It leads to the opposite of what I expected. 2) I’m more upset because I acted outside of my preferred self.

So how can we avoid acting in ways that conflict with the way we want to be? Temper desires and realize them for what they are. Instead of being a slave to your desires, cultivate a mindset that will reflect your values as you try to accomplish your goals. When you do this, the situations you face may become more likely to reflect your desires anyways (call it good karma.) This seems to work for me, although it can be tough. Desire be desire go!

Additional Reading: Wu Wei AKA Trying Not to Try

Occam’s Razor

“The simplest answer is usually the correct one.”

A favorite rule of thumb of mine is Occam’s Razor, which was developed by William of Ockham in the 13th century. To summarize, it means when trying to understand why something occurs, don’t make the answer more complex than necessary. The simplest or most obvious solution is more often the best choice.

This principle is not bulletproof and does not apply to everything. But I think it serves as a reminder not to complicate things for ourselves beyond necessity. You can read examples of Occam’s Razor applied to real life situations here. A favorite story of mine, the Russian/American space pen myth also demonstrates applying it to problem-solving, although it is not true:

When NASA started sending astronauts into space, they quickly discovered that ball-point pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat this problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 billion developing a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside-down, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to over 300 C. The Russians used a pencil.

Seeing and understanding the world clearly leads to better decisions and better living. Remembering Occam’s Razor can help us cut away complexity whenever life confuses us.