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  • By setting a single goal, Socrates changed the

  • quality of his entire life and altered the course of history.

  • His goal had been todo no evil”, but before I can explain why it was so powerful,

  • I need to build a framework for understanding goals.

  • We can categorize every goal according to two qualities: internal-external and avoidant-pursuant.

  • Avoidant-pursuant determines whether we are avoiding or pursuing something, and internal-external

  • determines whether that something is inside or outside of us.

  • By plotting internal-external along an x-axis and avoidant-pursuant on a y-axis, I create

  • a useful chart.

  • The external-pursuant section is quadrant I, internal-pursuant is quadrant II, external-avoidant

  • is quadrant III, and internal-avoidant is quadrant IV.

  • Be richis an example of a quadrant I goal, “be good” a quadrant II goal,

  • don't be poor” a quadrant III goal, anddon't be evil” a quadrant IV goal.

  • Quadrant I and II goals are bronze-tierthe worst class of goals we can set.

  • Quadrant III goals are silver-tier, and quadrant IV are gold-tier.

  • Now let me demonstrate how I arrived at this tier system.

  • Imagine a pair of scales in a state of perfect balance.

  • Place the goal from quadrant I, be rich, on the left-side of the scale.

  • Now place John, an accountant, on the right-side.

  • Because John isn't already rich, there's a gap between the two pans.

  • The gap represents the stress John currently feels, and he must alter his character, through

  • knowledge and action, to overcome the stress, close the gap between the two pans, and achieve

  • his goal.

  • So how does this goal affect John's character?

  • John decides to start investing.

  • He picks companies that he thinks will perform well and invests twenty-thousand dollars across

  • them.

  • In the first week, his portfolio rises two-hundred percent.

  • Because he's moving closer to his goal of being rich, the gap between the two pans shrink.

  • He feels unstoppable, like he's on top of the world, and his friends and family notice

  • a change in his energy.

  • He seems bubblier than usual,” they say.

  • In the second week, his portfolio drops back down, and the gap between the two pans increases

  • again.

  • John scolds himself.

  • How could I be so dumb?

  • I should have pulled my money out while I was up.

  • He feels depressed and upset, and the people around him notice a lack of energy that was

  • once there.

  • John locks himself in his room and spends weeks building a model in Excel.

  • Every mistake John makes increases the stress he feels and leaves him depressed.

  • Mistakes are a huge liability.

  • I need to predict better, he thinks.

  • I can't afford to be wrong again.

  • His friends invite him out for drinks, but he declines.

  • Until he starts moving towards the goal again, everything else is an obstacle, an annoyance.

  • Eventually John picks some new companies based on his model and invests his money back into

  • the market.

  • The next week his portfolio rises, and he feels on top of the world again.

  • I'm a genius, he thinks.

  • But the next week the markets crash, and John ends up depressed again.

  • I'm so dumb, he says.

  • Because John's goal is pursuant, he narrowly focuses on a single destination.

  • Being at the destination is the only way to remove his stress, and moving towards the

  • destination is the greatest pleasure.

  • Moving away from the destination is the greatest pain, and anything that stands in the way

  • of the destination is an annoying obstacleincluding friends and family.

  • Because John's not at his destination, he's under chronic stress and emotionally volatile.

  • He fears making mistakes, because they're huge setbacks that increase stress and misery.

  • Now let's compare this to the external-avoidant goal from quadrant III.

  • This time we'll place the goal don't be poor on the left-side of the scale and Sandy

  • on the right.

  • Like John, Sandy is an accountant, and because she's already not poor, there's no gap

  • between the two pans.

  • She feels a sense of calm and balance.

  • So how does this goal affect Sandy's character?

  • Sandy decides to start investing, and she splits twenty-thousand dollars across a few

  • companies.

  • After the first week, she takes a seat at her computer and prepares to check her portfolio.

  • Her stress increases, and a gap forms between the two pans.

  • When the webpage opens up, she sees that her portfolio rose two-hundred percent.

  • She feels a burst of happiness but quickly humbles herself.

  • Things could change in a moment, she thinks.

  • The gap between the two pans closes again as Sandy calms herself.

  • She exits the browser and continues on with the rest of her day.

  • In the second week, her portfolio drops down again.

  • She feels a bit deflated but remembers to be grateful.

  • I knew things could change, she thinks, and at least I'm not poor.

  • She jots down some notes to refine her decision-making process and selects some new companies to

  • invest in.

  • Sandy's okay with making mistakesas long as she uses those mistakes to refine her process.

  • She doesn't try to be right all the time, but she tries to make incremental improvements

  • in her decision-making.

  • She goes out for drinks with her friends later that night.

  • Over the next two weeks, her portfolio rises.

  • She feels a burst of joy but remembers to humble herself.

  • The next week the market crashes, and Sandy feels sad, but she remains grateful.

  • At least I'm not poor, she thinks, and I can use this as another lesson.

  • She refines her model, reinvests her money, and moves on.

  • Because Sandy's goal is avoidant, she focuses on the journey more than the destination.

  • As long as she's not in poverty, any destination will do.

  • Moving towards poverty brings her some sadness and moving away some happiness, but she balances

  • her emotions with humility and gratitude.

  • Her disposition is normally content, as opposed to inflated or deflated.

  • She's emotionally stable, and the stresses she encounters are acute.

  • She's open to other aspects of her life such as friends, family, and hobbies.

  • Sandy loves making mistakes too, because they allow her to refine her process.

  • Now let's compare John's pursuant goal with Sandy's avoidant one.

  • Imagine two blank maps.

  • Place John on the left map and Sandy on the right.

  • Now mark the places John and Sandy either want to go to or avoid with an X.

  • The distance between John and the X represents the stress he feels.

  • Sandy, on the other hand, feels content being in any place but the X.

  • When John moves towards the X he feels happy, but when he moves away, he feels sad.

  • Every movement changes his mood until the next movement.

  • For example, when his portfolio rises at the beginning of the first week, he feels inflated

  • that whole week.

  • But when his portfolio falls at the beginning of the second week, he feels deflated that

  • whole week.

  • His emotions linger depending on his movement towards or away from his destination.

  • Sandy, on the other hand, feels sad when she moves towards the X and happy when she moves

  • away, but her emotions quickly stabilize.

  • Any destination but the X is okay, and she keeps herself in check with humility and gratitude.

  • She's normally very content.

  • Because mistakes are such a setback for Johnleaving him sad until he moves forward againhe

  • hates making them.

  • He tries to be right all the time.

  • Sandy on the other hand loves mistakes.

  • She doesn't focus on being right all the time, but being more right over time.

  • She uses the mistakes to refine her process, so that she can slowly move further and further

  • from the X.

  • Both Sandy and John could end up in the same place, but their experience of getting there

  • would be quite different.

  • Returning to the four different kinds of goals, I can now explain the tier system.

  • Quadrant I and II goals are bronze because they're pursuant.

  • Pursuant goals cause chronic stress, emotional volatility, a fear of making mistakes, and

  • a narrow focus on arriving at a destination.

  • Quadrant III goals are silver because they're avoidant and external.

  • Avoidant goals come with acute stresses, emotional stability, a love of mistakes, and a broad

  • focus on enjoying the journey.

  • But because quadrant III goals are external, they're always partly out of our control.

  • So quadrant IV goals are gold-tier because they lack the weaknesses of the others.

  • And now that I've built a framework for understanding goals, we can return to Socrates.

  • So what was Socrates' goal in life?

  • It was the goal from quadrant IV: do no evil.

  • Let's place that goal on the left-side of the scale and Socrates on the right-side.

  • Because Socrates already isn't evil, there's no gap between the two pans.

  • He feels a sense of calm, contentment, and balance.

  • But how did this goal affect Socrates' character?

  • Socrates believed evil came from ignorance, so he spent his life searching for wisdom.

  • He travelled around Athens, conversing with people, asking them questions about piety,

  • justice, and other virtues.

  • When he received an answer, he often probed deeper into it.

  • He tried to see if the answers could stand up to scrutiny, and he often found that they

  • didn't.

  • Upon closer inspection, most answers fell apart, and Socrates showed people they were

  • not as wise as they thought they were.

  • But by engaging in this philosophical process, he tried to make himself and others less ignorant,

  • less evil, and more wise.

  • But many Athenians had pursued quadrant I goalssuch as money, fame, and statusand

  • saw him as an obstacle in their way.

  • They didn't like being shown their own ignorance, and they wanted to get rid of him.

  • So they put him on trial and threatened to put him to death.

  • Socrates said he didn't know whether death was a good or an evil thing, because he didn't

  • know what came after it.

  • He thought it could be an eternal sleep or another life, but because he didn't know

  • for sure, he didn't pretend to know whether it was an evil.

  • And because he didn't know if it was an evil, it didn't create stress for him.

  • It didn't conflict with his internal-avoidant goal.

  • In court, he faced his accusers with courage and integrity.

  • They couldn't break him.

  • And after they had sentenced him to death, they threw him into prison.

  • One of Socrates' friends, Crito, visited him in prison and said the following,

  • I should not have liked myself, Socrates, to be in such great trouble and unrest as

  • you areindeed I should not: I have been watching with amazement your peaceful slumbers;

  • and for that reason I did not awake you, because I wished to minimize the pain.

  • I have always thought you to be of a happy disposition; but never did I see anything

  • like the easy, tranquil manner in which you bear this calamity.

  • Even in the face of death, he maintained his inner serenity.

  • Crito offered to break Socrates out of prison and help him escape from Athens, but Socrates

  • refused.

  • He believed it would have been evil to run away.

  • And when the time came for him to drink the poisonous hemlock, it was said he drank it

  • without hesitation, with cheer even.

  • And as the toxins ran through his body and took effect, it was said that he stayed calm

  • while his friends wept around him.

  • Because Socrates' goal was avoidant, he focused on the journey more than the destination.

  • He had not tried to predict the correct definitions of virtues, but tried to understand them a

  • little better through trial and error, and constant refinement.

  • By talking to other Athenians, he often learned what the virtues were not, and by doing so,

  • he became less ignorant, more wise, and moved further from the X.

  • As Crito said, he was normally of a happy disposition.

  • And because his goal was internal, no one could get in the way.

  • He continued his journey with courage and serenity, even under the threat of death.

  • I believe his goal, and his dedication to it, allowed him to live a meaningful, good,

  • and impactful life.

  • So looking at the four goals again, we are left to decide.

  • Which

  • one

  • will we choose?

By setting a single goal, Socrates changed the

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Socrates — How to Live A Good Life

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    Summer posted on 2020/07/30
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