There's a sense of comfort in the realization that one person, even one planet, is completely inconsequential.
As you prepare for the upcoming week, I hope this reminder helps you put things into perspective and go easy on yourself.
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“Anyone who thinks they're important is usually just a pompous moron who can't deal with his or her own pathetic insignificance and the fact that what they do is meaningless and inconsequential.”
The pressure to succeed can be stifling. There is a constant push towards greatness in all areas of our lives and it’s easy to feel like average isn’t good enough anymore.
We’re all chasing our dream job, trying to exercise regularly, work on meaningful projects, and keep a myriad of other areas of our life in order. And along the way, we’re supposed to find our greater purpose and make an impact on the world.
It’s often said that “how you do one thing is how you do everything”, but if you’re pursuing perfection in too many areas of your life, they will all begin to suffer.
The pursuit of too much is accompanied by a sinking feeling or the sense that you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. No matter how much work goes in there is always more to be done. You could have done better if only you had a little more time or were more focused with the time you did have. Even a fantastically privileged life filled with accomplishment, love, and meaningful work can feel like a constant grind.
The light at the end of the tunnel? None of it matters.
We’re all specs of dust on a rock hurtling through space at 67,000 miles per hour. The entirety of human civilization is a rounding error compared to the Earth’s short history and incompressibly irrelevant when compared to the estimated 14 billion years the universe has been around.
Putting too much pressure on your own life to be perfect is like worrying about one drop of water in an ocean.
We all long for the greatness achieved by legends of history like Einstein, Mozart, or Martin Luther King Jr., but the reality is 99.9% of people are forgotten. And that is okay.
When we come to terms with our insignificance, we can remove the pursuit of perfection and replace it with the enjoyment of what’s truly important. If we attempt to extract too much meaning from our short lives, we can stress ourselves out the same way an English teacher can ruin a great book forcing students to find symbolism or meaning the author never intended.
Sometimes a book is just a story relaying a series of events and similarly our lives are just a collection of events strung together from a single perspective.
Recognizing our own insignificance allows for a placid state of satisfaction. When nothing matters, it becomes easier to be grateful for what you have, failures are inconsequential, and improvement can be pursued without expectation.
What was your last mistake or failure? How does remembering it make you feel?
Now imagine for a moment that this mistake/failure was completely inconsequential. How does this change how you’re feeling?
In which area of your life do you overestimate significance the most?
A Reason to Stop Worrying - Pursuit of Wonder
A mesmerizing 4-minute video contemplating how “tiny” we really are
The Liberation of Cosmic Insignificance - Oliver Burkeman
An excerpt from Burkeman’s book “Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals”
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