Zoe Meditations: Passion, Investing in People, & Dealing with Loneliness

Welcome to Zoe Meditations, where every week, I will summarize a few ideas that will help you live greater, love better and laugh more. 

Recently, I was doing a Bourne movie marathon with my wife; and I started to wonder what Bourne would do in his social distancing time. Turns out the internet has beat me to it:

Government: Work from home!
Bourne: I’m on it…..

Let’s get started!

Following your passion is a terrible advice: According to author Cal Newport, “When it comes to creating work you love, following your passion is not particularly useful advice.”

It not only fails to describe how most people actually end up with compelling careers, but for many people it can actually make things worse: leading to chronic job shifting and unrelenting angst.

The happiest, most passionate employees are not those who followed their passion into a position, but instead those who have been around long enough to become good at what they do.

But what if I’m not motivated with my work? 

Well, motivation is actually a matter of psychology and not of the soul. According to Cal Newport incorporating these factors into your work will ensure more motivation in your work:

– Autonomy: the feeling that you have control over your day, and that your actions are important

– Competence: the feeling that you are good at what you do

– Relatedness: the feeling of connection to other people

The deep questions driving the passion mindset – “Who am I?” and “What do truly love?”-are essentially impossible to confirm. “Is this who I really am?” and “Do I love this?” rarely reduce to a clear yes-or-no response. In other words, the passion mindset is almost guaranteed to keep you perpetually unhappy and confused.

Put aside the question of whether your job is your true passion, and instead turn your focus toward becoming so good they can’t ignore you.

Invest in people early. Psychologist Adam Grant in his book Give and Take found that believing in people early can pave a way to better performance and higher morale in the future. 

Grant found when platoon leaders believed in the trainees’ potential, they acted in ways that made this potential a reality. The platoon leaders who held high expectations of their trainees provided more help, career advice, and feedback to their trainees. When their trainees made mistakes, instead of assuming that they lacked ability, the platoon leaders saw opportunities for teaching and learning. The supportive behaviors of the platoon leaders boosted the confidence and ability of the trainees, enabling and encouraging them to achieve higher performance.

These platoon leaders don’t wait for signs of potential. Because they tend to be trusting and optimistic about other people’s intentions, in their roles as leaders, managers, and mentors, these people are inclined to see the potential in everyone. 

By default, start by believing the best in people.

Compatibility vs. Chemistry. According to author Mark Manson, “The terms compatibility and chemistry are often used by people interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing.” 

Compatibility is a natural alignment of lifestyle choices and values between two people. 

Compatibility usually corresponds to the long-term potential between two people. High compatibility between people comes from similarities in their lifestyles and values. 

Chemistry on the other hand, represents the emotional connection present when you’re with each other. When you have a high degree of chemistry with someone, they monopolize your thoughts and/or your free time. High levels of chemistry usually come from opposite yet complementary qualities in people.

A relationship with high compatibility but little chemistry is likely to be a boring yet convenient series of meetings and conversations, dry and dull until both parties simply stop caring and drift apart, or they consummate their mutual convenience by getting married and promise themselves a lifetime of simple and asexual companionship.

High levels of chemistry with major incompatibilities is bad news. Really bad news. These relationships usually begin quickly and passionately, exploding like a flaming geyser, which then extinguishes just as quickly as it began. Logic kicks in. Reality makes itself known. And you suddenly realize how unbearable you find each other.

The first question you should ask yourself when you are about to enter a relationship is “What do I want?” It’s crucial you know. You need to know what you like and what you want in a partner. If you don’t, then you need to cautiously gain enough experience until you do know.

On Loneliness. According to the Stoics, it is our choice, our own attitude, that turns solitude into loneliness. We may be alone, but we do not consequently need to feel helpless.

There is no reason to be embarrassed with loneliness because (some degree of) loneliness is a natural condition for humanity, and Stoics reject the whole idea of embarrassment, especially with respect to societal expectations, because we have no influence over other people’s judgments, only over our own behavior.

It’s okay to feel lonely, you are a human being. Don’t be embarrassed about it. When you realize the gnawing feeling of loneliness, don’t hesitate to reach out to others. The world is a harsh place, but with persistence you will eventually find one or two friendly souls. Reach out in small scale (instagram message, Facebook) and talk to them.

Sometimes the best cure to loneliness is to make other lonely people feel less lonely.

The truth about gossip: In his book the Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt said that human beings were governed by the principle of reciprocity- a person who receives a favor is obligated to return the favor.

Viewed in this manner, he then elaborated that gossip is a necessary social function that serves as a punishing mechanism for “an ingrate who failed to repay an important favor.” This was done in order to ruin the victim’s reputation.

Gossip then, enables us to keep track of everyone’s reputation without having to witness their good and bad deeds personally.

Haidt concludes, “Gossip extends our moral-emotional toolkit. In a gossipy world, we don’t just feel vengeance and gratitude toward those who hurt or help us; we feel pale but still instructive flashes of contempt and anger toward people whom we might not even know.”

Thus the key take away from this truth is this: do your work and be a good person. Try to treat your fellow men with wisdom and importantly, justice.

Build a good habit: According to author Gretchen Rubin, over the long run, the unglamorous habit of frequency fosters both productivity and creativity.

Frequency makes starting easier. Getting started is always a challenge. It’s hard to start a project from scratch, and it’s also hard each time you re-enter a project after a break. By working every day, you keep your momentum going.

Frequency keeps ideas fresh. Frequency keeps the pressure off. Frequency sparks creativity. Frequency nurtures frequency. Frequency fosters productivity. Frequency is a realistic approach.

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I'm a happiness blogger who writes about philosophy for living strong, loving unconditionally and laughing more.

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