Paying for the art of life

Mitch Olson
Mitch Olson

Stop for a second and think. Are you completely satisfied with your life in this moment? The chances are you're not.

Satisfaction and a sense of well-being come when what is important to us, and what we have, are the same. The philosopher Alfred North Whitehead said humans have a "three-fold urge"; to live, to live well, and to live better.

"In fact the art of life is first to be alive, secondly to be alive in a satisfactory way, and thirdly to acquire an increase in satisfaction."

But sometimes, as Mick Jagger attests, "I can't get no satisfaction". Satisfaction can be notoriously difficult to get. Even when we set out with the best of intentions, we often find ourselves defeated by ourselves. According to research, only 8 percent of people achieve their new years' resolutions. Why is satisfaction and "the art of life" so elusive?

The problem is that life is so damned "sticky". Once something has come into being, life tends to "lock" this in. In physics, this "locking in" is called "inertia". Inertia is the tendency for things to stay as they are and resist change. Inertia has to be overcome for something to start moving, or for something moving to stop moving, or just to change direction. In other words, inertia is the force that resists change.

If we want to make a change to build ourselves a better life, we'll need to understand how to overcome inertia. Those people who know how are better able to create more satisfying lives and a sense of well-being. Those who don't know how waste effort and regret in fruitless pursuits, and much of what is important to them goes unrealised. We must know!

So how can we master the art of life to create and connect with more of what is important to us? I believe there are two general strategies; (i) old wisdom and (ii) new wisdom.

The old wisdom comes in a variety of approaches. One approach is marketed with names like "positive thinking" and "the law of attraction". These are imbued with magical thinking that just wishing for what we want will make it so. A second approach is the five-step formula. This is the life-as-a-recipe blueprint, where satisfaction comes from precisely measuring and mixing a predefined number of steps. One of the latest approaches is habit-building. A habit is something effortless, automatic, mindless, and thoughtless. The theory of this school of thought is if we repeat a behaviour enough times, it will become effortless and automatic. While this may be true of simple motor skills like brushing our teeth, anything involving effort, intention, mindfulness or choice will never become a habit. Habit advocates are totally over-selling what a habit is and what a habit can deliver.

None of these old approaches is effective in overcoming the inertia of unsatisfying moments. We need a different strategy. A new way of seeing the world, a new wisdom centered around "capability".

Capability is the engine of our life. In physics, capability is called "power". We can relate to this through the concept of the power of a car or motorcycle. The more power the engine has, the more capable it is to accelerate and the more inertia it can overcome. Power is to a machine as capability is to a person; they both overcome inertia. For you and I, capability means the ability to create the outcomes we desire in our life.

Inertia, capability, and satisfying outcomes are at the heart of the fourth law of the 6 Laws of a better life. "The law of pay for" says, capability pays for outcomes. Capability is the engine of our satisfaction. There is much more to say about capability, which we will elsewhere. All we need to say for now is that one of the many benefits of understanding how to create a more satisfying life through capability is that anyone can develop their capability. This is the core purpose of participating in IDOJO.

The same logic and order reflected in the laws of physics also applies to more complex domains including our lives and our satisfaction. There is an underlying set of laws of life, and understanding these enables us to master the art of living. The Law of pay for creates the potential for us all to live better lives.


Mitch Olson

I'm the founder of IDOJO; a fresh approach to helping people develop their capability to build a better life. I started A Better Life to share these ideas with a broader audience.


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