Clearing up the confusion to live a happier life

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What does happiness mean? Can you define it? For something so ubiquitous, it’s ill-defined. It means different things to different people. There’s no common vocabulary to discuss it, and it’s messy. The word itself is vague, with conflicting connotations. Although I partly blame the English language, I think this imprecision comes mostly from culture. We end up unconsciously internalising this wooliness, as culture subtly influences our thinking.

Culture’s definition of happiness isn’t captured in words, but incessant images of beauty, money, and success. Success is conflated with happiness, and the ordinary overlooked and invisible. Great sportsmen and entrepreneurs are lionised…

Why the ancient philosophy is more relevant than ever.

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The world is out of control. The last year has left this one fact clear, whatever your ideological leanings or political bias. As a species, our self-assurance has cracked under the strain of exponential contagion. It’s been an anxious time, the uncertainty engulfing life in a cloying fog. For me, it’s felt like stasis, life on pause and flickering like an old TV.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a tragedy, yet for many people, little has really changed. They wake up, go to work (normally in the same building), eat dinner (home-cooked), and see friends (virtually). Subtract the uncertainty and…

Why self-knowledge is important, and how reflection can supercharge yours

Hand with Reflecting Sphere, M. C. Escher

In 2020 I got to know myself for the first time. I’d never spent much time in my own company before that. At best, myself and I were acquaintances, our relationship convivial but casual. I was happiest pulled along in the current of life, doing things without much thought. I had an experiential sense of who I was, but I couldn’t articulate it.

Quarantine changed all that. With the enforced isolation lengthening the days and tempering the busyness I used to distract myself with, there was an aching silence my thoughts tumbled into. There was so much to think about…

The most important choice in life is what you pay attention to.

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The most important choice in life is what you pay attention to. It’s a choice we make continuously and often unconsciously, in an endless succession of moments. Everything we experience is mediated by our attention. It’s the lens we see the world through. It is our reality, albeit an imperfect one¹. All we are, the ineffable tangle of us, is a mix of our experiences and memories. And this intangible figment, our consciousness, is embodied by our attention. It colours our present, determining our day-to-day experience, and guides our future.

It colours our present.

In April 2020 I was the most anxious I’ve ever…

You probably don’t have a purpose, but you need one

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Finding your purpose in life is vital to a life well-lived. Purpose meant here with a small “p” — more reasons to get out of bed than existential grandstanding. Everyone is looking for it, knowingly or not; history is the searching embodied. It’s been found in the stars, in the Earth, in the Word of God, or the gods, in philosophy, in politics, in family, in work. More than searching, human history is searching and finding purpose. Or was.

As we tumble into the third decade of the 21st century we find ourselves in a strange position. The need for…

An exploration of how to be sanely political in today’s world

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Why do we focus so much on politics? It’s not a rhetorical question. The events of the past few weeks are just the crescendo of a longer-term trend of derangement, now apparently ubiquitous across the political spectrum. I ask because politics still makes me crazy when I engage with it, as well as many of my otherwise level-headed friends, family members, and colleagues. Every conversation is a minefield of strong opinions, often unjustifiably so given the accompanying grasp of the subject, and raw emotions, tripwires triggered by innocuous comments. …

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My prolonged relationship with imposter syndrome, longer and more consistent than most in my life, began when I started work. 18 years of education left me comfortable with any task accompanied by a detailed mark scheme, and embarrassingly inept at handling the ill-defined problems outside the classroom. I had no idea what I was doing, and I felt it viscerally; a nagging anxiety gleefully comparing my inexperience with the competent adults surrounding me. Over time its intensity has waxed and waned as I moved from job to job, changing colleagues and expectations, but always there, persisting. This loyalty has bred…

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How would you describe a life’s trajectory? Take a single life heading through time, simultaneously minute and meaningless, a flickering spark in infinity, and the most important thing there is. Stop it at random, a single frame of existence, and plot a course into the future. Can you judge the direction of travel?

If you’re willing to compress the infinite variety of life into a single word (I am), there are roughly three trajectories: growth, stagnation, and deterioration. The default is stagnation, a life purportedly in motion but actually in stasis, the small hillocks of growth and deterioration flattened to…

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If Karl Max lived in 2020 he would’ve written ‘pop culture is opium for the people’. This article isn’t about Karl Marx, but it is a combination of two things: an apology for putting down the opium pipe and embracing disconnection from the cultural zeitgeist, and a manifesto for better ways to direct your attention.

I’ve never been at the forefront of pop culture. I blame my mum for refusing to buy Sky, limiting me to 5 TV channels until I’d nearly left home (despite numerous threats of reporting her to the NSPCC). By the time she’d caved it was…

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I didn’t realise I was selfish until I was 24. It was more a creeping realisation than an instant flash of insight, the indisputable accumulation of half-forgotten events and off-hand comments: staying awkwardly silent during a group conversation on charities we were donating to, friends’ birthdays I attended empty handed, an inexplicable urge to ensure I pay for only what I ate and not a penny more at dinner, rightly mocked, the almost total focus on myself and my own issues with little mental energy devoted to others. …

Matthew Born

26 year old Londoner working in Tech, thinking a lot about productivity, philosophy, politics, happiness and far too much more to fit in 160 characters

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