want, need, can, paid; pick all four?

You may have seen those venn diagrams; it’s sometimes three circles and sometimes four circles. (You can play with the concepts to make them cleanly mutually exclusive:)

1. What you want to do(/be/have)

2. What’s needed

3. What you can do or are good (enough) at

(4a. What people will pay you for or (4b) what you’re resourced (enough) for)

And the idea is that you find something to do, a job, a career, a team, a project, a mission, a passion that checks all these boxes, or falls under all the concepts/categories, or falls into (the overlap) of these circles.

But this doesn’t always work.

You might not want to do what’s needed. You might not be good enough to do what you want to do, or you don’t have enough time, money, energy, youth to become good at it. Maybe it’s too competative or it doesn’t pay enough, etc.

It can be really hard to find the sweet spot of all these things. And some people don’t care, and some people convince themselves they don’t care, and for some people it hurts. There’s also the issue of more considerations besides these circles, actually. You need time for relationships, friendships, family, maybe music or expression, etc.

This is all a really complicated problem, which, again, some people contingently nail and some people contingently don’t. This is for all sorts of reasons. Maybe you saw your childhood friend’s mom yell at your friend, or maybe you got really sick when you were four, or maybe your older brother was really, really, really successful, or maybe something terribly embarrassing happened on your first date.

A butterfly flapped its wings, lawful causes and conditions ramified, and now you really, really want to do this narrow, narrow project, or you’ve got this obsession, or you have to do something exciting, or you need novelty. Or nobody understands what you’re trying to do. Or you’re just doing this normal job that’s supposedly meaningful, and you even endorse that it should be meaningful and you know you’re very lucky, and you’re just miserable or you can’t get yourself to think about the things and excel.

I know a bunch of people where, no matter where you plunk them down, they are at least seemingly happy and successful, interested and excited, within six months. And let’s say you are not that.

Meditation can help in a few different ways, and, as I’ve noted before, this is an investment over months or years, and there are risks involved.

(a) The first way meditation can help is that, over time, nonarbitrarily, in ways your future self retrospectively endorses, it changes what you want and how you feel about what you have in the meantime. This affects (1) above, of course. Maybe a huge part of what you’re doing is because you need to impress your parents or outcompete a sibling or be accepted by your peer group (except that’s all been stale for years or decades), and meditation (and therapy, and journaling, and focusing, etc.) helps you unpack all of that in a way that actually affects your System One, as it were.

(b) Second, in part because of (a) and in part because your mind starts working better and better, there is more of a chance that you can gain valued abilities and do so more efficiently. This affects (3) and (4b) above. I’ve seen ossified minds become information sponges.

(c) Third, you might think that meditating is not going to change what’s needed, but meditation is, in part, an epistemological method, and that affects your concepts/ontologies as well. You might be conceptualizing “what’s needed” incorrectly, in subtle or overt ways. You get to refactor all your categories and concepts, examine your preconceptions and presuppositions. It becomes safe, even strategic, to disagree with the experts. New needles become available for threading. And, this does happen at an intellectual level, but it also affects your true, deep down drivers of action. And so you might find that there’s niches and teams and projects and sole proprietorships that are in fact critically needed, and in fact you can come to describe them in exciting ways that gives you tons of status, and in fact it’s important and you know it’s important so you can sell yourself in a way that gets you on the team, and you actually deep-down care so it’s easy to hit the ground running and achieve. Or you scrounge up some money and go write the book or do the research project, etc. And you have the resilience to weather the uncertainty.

In any case, it’s really, really possible to be massively, competently, felt-intrinsically motivated to go after a thing, to come to be among the best or the very best in your high-status subsubsubsubdomain, while not torturing yourself in the meantime (e.g. to motivate yourself) and not torturing yourself in the case you fail (e.g. employing regret strategies). And then you can start pursuing things based on expected value and also weather higher variances, all things being equal, because you’re completely on your own side.

And, so meditation can be (opportunity) costly and risky, but it can also change the trajectory of your entire life, the next many decades, and the benefits keep compounding once you get over the hump.

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