Epistemic Status: Not really epistemic or instrumental rationality. Meta-rationality? In any case, something rationality can help operationalize, although that is not the object here. Might still be of interest to this crowd.
There is a question that everyone tends to ask themselves at one point or another and that question is What should I do with my life?
I don't think there is a higher value that overrides all other. Unless it is so general as to be tautological. Some call this tautological value happiness, or more scientifically subjective well-being or life satisfaction.
We often try to answer the question in terms of goals and objectives. That's not necessarily the right approach. After all, all we can ever decide is what to do right here, right now. Still, it raises the following question: Is it necessary to achieve to be happy? Should you just cruise through life and take in the sights? Or strive towards a goal worthy of you?
I sincerely believe that happiness requires meaning, and meaning requires a struggle. You should strive, but focus on the quality of the striving rather than on the end goal. Cruise if you must, but cruise towards something. Strive, but don't be consumed by the goal.
There were many inspirations that led me to that conclusion, but the following three I find the most illuminating:
- Finding Your Purpose and Living a Meaningful Life
A thorough examination of the idea of striving versus cruising.
If you don't know what to do with your life, have you at least started looking?
Strive to be yourself.
- The Most Important Question of Your Life
What pain do you want in life? Looking for the pain you enjoy or even tolerate better than other goes a long way towards finding somewhat you will find meaningful.
- How to Worry Less
The vast majority of life consists of getting somewhere else. There are very few moments of arrival, and they are over as soon as they begin. If you feel like you need to be there before you can fully relax into where you are, then you will seldom be relaxed in life.
This used to be a huge series of posts tackling the grand question of the meaning of life. I spent tens of hours writing and editing these posts... and came to hate them with a passion. It came from a good place: I wanted to share all my inspirations, all the connections that I'd developed. But at the same time it felt like I was trying to look clever all the time.
I was inspired by Derek Sivers to just extract the essential point and trash the rest. I'm glad I did.