3 Simple Steps to Lead a More Meaningful Life

Photo by Martin Shreder on Unsplash

“If information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.”

Live by Design or Live by Default

“The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default.” — Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Living by design, not by default. If there’s a better six word phrase to describe a fulfilling life, I haven’t heard it.

1. Have a Clear Purpose

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” — Alexander Graham Bell

Warren Buffet, once offering advice to his personal airplane pilot, suggested a simple method to better focus and pursue your critical life goals.

  1. Write down the top 25 things you want to do in your life.
  2. Take the top 5 and separate them from the bottom 20.
  3. Refuse to look at anything on the bottom 20 until you’ve succeeded with your top five.

“Remembering that destination will help you make the single most important distinction in life, which is to distinguish between an opportunity to be seized and a temptation to be resisted.”

2. Set a Decision Criteria

“Concision in style, precision in thought, decision in life.” — Victor Hugo

When a new opportunity comes up, how do you decide whether it’s worthwhile or not?

“If I thought something was a 7, there was a good chance I felt obligated to do it. But if I have to decide between a 6 or an 8, it’s a lot easier to quickly determine whether or not I should even consider it.”

Once you start doing this, it’s easy to see how many of the things we do — yet aren’t really thrilled about doing — end up with a 7 ranking. Eliminating this option forces us to choose between critical efforts and those that don’t fall into our top priorities.

“This way you avoid getting caught up in indecision, or worse, getting stuck with the 60s or 70s. Think about how you’d feel if you scored a 65 on some test. Why would you deliberately choose to feel that way about an important choice in your life?”

Whatever criterion works for you, the important thing is to have some method of assessing how well new opportunities align to your mission. And move from making an emotional, impulsive decision to one that’s governed by logic.

3. Recognize the Trade-offs

“I can’t give you a surefire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time.” — Herbert Baynard Swope, first recipient of the Pulitzer Prize

Whenever I see a company quickly take on new work without considering the trade-offs, I’m immediately suspicious of whether they’ll follow through on their promises. Not only is it unlikely that they have a plan to succeed in the new scope, they’ve also shown a lack of respect for their previous commitments.

“Essentialists see trade-offs as an inherent part of life, not as an inherently negative part of life. Instead of asking, ‘What do I have to give up?’ they ask, ‘What do I want to go big on?’”

Don’t ask yourself how you can do it all. Ask yourself what you want to go big on. And then do it.

Pause. Then Choose.

“Someone with a coherent philosophy of life will know what in life is worth attaining, and because this person has spent time trying to attain the thing in life he believed worth attaining, he has probably attained it, to the extent that it was possible for him to do so.” — William B. Irvine, The Guide to the Good Life

We all want to have a fulfilling life — one that’s in spent in pursuit of meaningful goals. There’s few people who reach their deathbed and wish they’d spent more time chasing trivial distractions.

  1. Have a clear purpose.
  2. Set a decision criteria.
  3. Recognize the trade-offs.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life”

Thanks, as always, for reading. If you enjoyed this or have any suggestions, please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. And if you found this helpful, I’d appreciate if you could clap it up👏 and help me share with more people. Cheers!



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Jake Wilder

Jake Wilder

I don’t know where I’m going. But at least I know how to get there.