You know that thing you’re working on right now?
Maybe it’s a project you’ve put countless hours into. An idea that keeps you up at night. A task assigned to you at your job. A degree from university. Even a mobile game on your phone.
Doesn’t matter what it is, we all have things that we choose to put our time into for various reasons. However, knowingly or not, we often avoid a subtle truth regarding any specific endeavor.
It’s probably not nearly as important as you think it is.
In the grand scheme of things, you are 1 in over 7,440,000,000 people on the face of the earth. Chances are, your work isn’t going to have the impact that you tell yourself it will.
“How can you look at the galaxy and not feel insignificant? “ — Ridley Scott
Let me just say, there are exceptions to this rule. There is truly significant work being done out there. This isn’t targeted at the brave, talented people out there working to save or better lives in some capacity. But rather at us mere mortals: the majority.
It’s in our nature as humans to seek out the feeling of importance. We assign false meaning to things each and every day in order to support this need. This bias routinely clouds our decision making and alters our intuition.
However, I didn’t write this post to air out existential musings. The truth is that we can use this phenomenon to our advantage — you probably already are.
This delusional sense of significance or ’false optimism’ is actually a super power that when utilized correctly, can push you to achieve incredible things.
This post was inspired by the following passage from New York Times bestseller: Thinking, Fast and Slow.
“I have yet to meet a successful scientist who lacks the ability to exaggerate the importance of what he or she is doing, and I believe that someone who lacks a delusional sense of significance will wilt in the face of repeated experiences of multiple small failures and rare successes, the fate of most researchers.” — Daniel Kahneman
This highlights the fact that there is actually upside to these apparent weaknesses.
The same delusion that clouds our judgement is ultimately what keeps us going in times of adversity. We are pushed to work harder and persevere when the importance of the work is tied to a cause greater than ourselves.
There’s a reason why the person or team that ‘wants it more’ is often viewed as the likely winner. What better way to incentivize yourself than to use this observation to your advantage?
If you want to be truly productive, raise the stakes. Take on projects related to things that you’re passionate about. Let yourself believe that it’s more important than it may seem at face value.
Continue to believe in yourself and in the importance of your work, no matter what. In other words, be delusional.
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