Trivial Pursuits

  1. Start with your ultimate goal(s). The Dalai Lama said that the meaning of life is to seek joy. As a simple statement, that’s hard to beat. Let’s say that you start there. It is beautiful because we don’t ever really want “things”. We want the emotional states we believe having those things or experiences will give us.
  2. Ask what you need to have sustained joy. Drugs won’t do it. Neither will short-term relationships or unethical behavior. Chart a path that day after day moves you away from pain and toward pleasure, in a manner aligned with your values. For most of humanity? This means the path of “Adulting”: mastery of the physical body, exchanging legal goods and services with your community in a manner that allows you to support yourself and a family, a loving relationship with another adult, and some activity that expresses your emotions deeply.
  3. Each of THESE arenas then has “ultimate goals” but they will tend to be more tethered to daily life, be less general than “find joy.”
  4. The most important of these might be the “making a living” thing, as money enables the time to take care of your body, the ability to build a nest, and the free time to practice your hobby. NOTE: the luckiest people in the world are those who manage to make their hobby their profession. That is rare and a very delicate balance.
  5. If you know how much money you need to make to be safe and comfortable, you then have to develop the products or services that enable that. What will they be? NOTE: if you don’t have a salable skill, might I suggest that the most critical skill might well be marketing and sales? Once you have true expertise there, you can make a living selling ANYTHING. All you have to do is find someone with a skill you admire, whose wares are in alignment with your values, and partner with them.
  6. Whatever you decide to do, study people who have done it well before you. If possible, choose people who started from a position similar to yours. DON’T BE TOO RIGID ABOUT THIS. Taken to an extreme, there is NO ONE who has ever been in precisely your position. Rigid people take this to mean that they cannot model anyone, and have to make it all up on their own. Trust me: you don’t have enough time in life to reinvent every wheel.
  7. Your initial plans, therefore, should be to take the early steps that lead to the skills that give you the options to eventually become what you want. Small steps. Baby steps. But constant steps, week after week, month after month, year after year. Always keeping your eyes on the “prize” of a happy, joyful, healthy life.
  1. How can I support myself , and contribute to my society with joy and dignity?
  2. How can I find and nurture love with another adult human being, one of mutual support and passion?
  3. How can I nurture health, energy, and aliveness in my physical body? Be the mirror of the kind of body I am attracted to?
  4. How can I continue to express and explore my true nature, in a joyful and positive way?




Steven Barnes is a NY Times bestselling author, ecstatic husband and father, and holder of black belts in three martial arts.

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Steven Barnes

Steven Barnes

Steven Barnes is a NY Times bestselling author, ecstatic husband and father, and holder of black belts in three martial arts.

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