There can be no happiness without self-knowledge.
You can try to end-run around this, and do things that make you happy that require no thought (well, in theory). You keep butting into the same problem, though; without thought, those things don’t make you very happy, and without knowing what makes you happy, you have to examine yourself, in great detail.
Without that, you are lost.
I was thinking this the other day, when trying to decide on my priorities. We live in a planner-friendly culture, where you are supposed to diagram out your day, the tasks you have in store, the order you plan to tackle them in, etc. The problem is that this isn’t meta enough; all these this-that conditionals are small potatoes compared to the larger question of what should I be doing?
This doesn’t have to be overtly navel-gazing; it has its broad-but-narrow professional implications, too. Which language should be learning? Which editor? What am I building towards? How can I push a little closer, day by day?
But it is broad, too. At a certain point, you have to distinguish between equally good options based on preference and preference alone. This is when the choice becomes harder, when that real personal choice is involved.
A friend of mine was talking about how he arranges his priorities, and passed on a tip that a friend had conveyed to him. He said, be able to tell the difference between priorities you made up, and priorities that count. The ones that count you do first, and in the time left over, do the others. Do both, but if you can learn to distinguish between arbitrarily set deadlines and ‘real’ ones, you’ll be better off.
I’m in a relationship now, and seeing some of these choices write large. Time is so short, so precious. Sometimes relationships, around the time of a move for instance, take time, and the loss of that time can be frustrating. Thus, the choice-making: impartial, just, and in the sense of choosing impartially between your choices, blind.
Ultimately, you have to step back, far back, review your whole life, and look for where the big gains and losses are being made.
That’s where you start making cuts, to start making real progress towards the life you want.
What do you want? What’s most important you? How will you decide it?
We all have to spend our whole lives deciding.