How should I get along with the world?

Last September, I participated in an event organized by a Chinese cultural salon in the Netherlands, and the overall atmosphere of sharing and discussion was excellent. In the questioning session in the second half, a friend asked everyone a question: “I am often submerged in all kinds of information in my life, which causes me to constantly doubt whether the decisions I have made before and whether the decisions I am making are not. Yes. What should I do to stick with my choice? Or how can I make a “good choice”? “

At that time, I seemed to be blessed with the soul, and my answer to this question suddenly appeared in my mind, but the answer seemed to be just a frame or a painting, just at the stage of “Spiritual Language 1 “. But fortunately, thanks to the atmosphere at the time, I struggled to organize the answer in words.

I didn’t think my answer was very constructive at the time, but at least two people came over after the meeting and told me that my answer was very helpful to them. I was very happy after listening to it – being able to help others – and at the same time, I also secretly noted that this idea is important, but not mature enough, not logical enough, just some vague ideas hidden in the back of my mind.

But now, I’ve decided to write down what I don’t yet have a clear mind, but I can share with others. And the opportunity for me to write this idea is the three books I read some time ago 2 , or the ideas mentioned in these three books. The combination of these ideas coincided with my answer at the meeting at the time. But with the author’s clear description, I seem to be able to describe the thoughts in my mind. I decided to take the opportunity to write this article, hoping to find an answer to answer – how should I get along with the world ?

Questions and Answers

“How should I get along with the world?” This question seems to be different from the one mentioned at the beginning of the article, but it is actually a question.

When we talk about “being with the world,” what does “the world” mean?

The first is “others”, that is, our friends, family, lovers, colleagues, strangers, and even the stars and influencers we follow. The influence of all kinds of people on us is enormous. The college major that our parents let us choose, the information about the promotion of our friends, the brand endorsed by the star, the opinion of the big V we follow, all these information affect our view of the world all the time. How to deal with these people (and the messages behind them)?

The second is “information”, the news you follow, the books you read, and the information in your circle of friends. Is this information true or false? Which should I believe? What should I do with this information?

Last but not least, is the “self”, what kind of person am I? What kind of life do I want? What has my experience brought me? Why am I angry or happy?

The three factors and the information behind them are constantly intersecting in life, which makes it difficult for us to make decisions, or we often regret and doubt our decisions after making decisions. In the end, it is difficult to truly enjoy the moment and enjoy life.

But I admit that it may take a lifetime to answer this question. It requires constant thinking, trying, experiencing, reflecting, and then looping, and finally, it may be possible to reach a certain stage of reconciliation with myself and the world.

At the same time, I also believe that such exploration can be learned. By learning some ways of thinking, it is like learning mathematical formulas. When we encounter specific problems, we may be able to solve the problem by applying the learned formulas; while applying the formulas, our understanding of the formulas will become deeper and deeper. The probability of the answer to the question is getting higher and higher.

In my opinion, there are at least three “formulas” that can be learned and applied to answer the question “How should I get along with the world?”:

  • Dichotomous thinking and grayscale thinking
  • goals and systems
  • Metacognition and a sense of mastery

Formula 1: Dichotomous thinking and grayscale thinking

First, before we make decisions, we need to establish grayscale thinking and avoid dichotomous thinking.

Binary thinking is when some people believe that there are only two possible answers to a question – zero or one, yes or no, right or wrong, good or evil – even though there may be more than one answer to the question, and Depends on the context in which it is located. This type of thinking often oversimplifies complex concepts, ideas, and problems, while ignoring the “gray areas” in between. The relative gray thinking (Grey thinking) refers to the way of thinking that people pay more attention to the middle area of ​​the problem, collect as much information as possible and think (if the so-called “conclusion” exists) before making a conclusion.

The reason why people look at the world in a dichotomous way is actually to seek a kind of “certainty”, that is to look at the world from an extremely simplified perspective, which can avoid the uncertainty caused by the complexity of various things. . It’s also “lazy”, because the effort required to understand the complexity of the world is enormous – a lot of reading, a lot of meeting, a lot of going, a lot of thinking.

Many things in the world are far more complex than we can understand/control, such as city management, life development, and countermeasures against the global epidemic. The problems behind these things are not one or two answers. Can answer; the world is not just friends and enemies, us and them, Easterners and Westerners.

What problems might such thinking lead to?

The first is that personal growth will be greatly limited. When we limit ourselves to very few options, we ignore many possibilities. For example, many senior students ask: “Should I take the postgraduate entrance examination or study abroad?” The question itself is not a problem, but it ignores other possibilities – direct work, saving money after work and then studying abroad, starting a business, taking a gap year, and going to travel. Manuscript fee to support yourself, and so on. Another example is a person who wants to buy a camera and asks: “Should I spend 20,000 yuan on a camera of model xx? The pictures taken are very nice.” Instead of asking yes or no, it is better to give yourself more options: A. Buy 20,000 yuan for a camera B. I regret not buying a camera for a long time C. I buy a 10,000 yuan camera and use the remaining 10,000 yuan to travel. We often create dilemmas for ourselves that should not exist, which are obviously open-ended or multiple-choice questions, but twisted into right and wrong questions.

The second is lack of empathy. Under the dichotomy, people ignore the complexity of “people”, turn a blind eye to the nuances between people, and at the same time over-stereotype others. For example, for people who think that there are only easterners and westerners in the world, maybe all “westerners” are “foreigners from the United States”, and all “easterners” are yellow-skinned people from East Asia. This ignorance of the common and different between people leads to an innate “sense of distance” that prevents us from empathizing with others. Many people use the phrase “political correctness” to deny some remarks, but ignore the stories behind them.

But maybe, “ta people” are like us. They have all kinds of hobbies, like to watch stupid animal videos, and they also desert in class and meetings. They are all specific people. Therefore, when wars and disasters occur in the world, although we cannot achieve 100% empathy, at least we will not fall into the trap.

So, how do we cultivate our grayscale thinking and avoid dichotomous thinking?

First, try more “new things”, including meeting new people, traveling to different places, trying different hobbies, and participating in different activities. The richer the collections in our “Experience Collection”, the easier it is to find ways to deal with new information when it enters our lives.

Second, embrace uncertainty. Instead of being afraid of the life changes that new things bring, change your perspective. For example, if you are going to live in a new country, instead of worrying about the language barrier, the unsuitable climate, and the lack of friends, you should consider this an opportunity to learn a new language and explore a new culture.

In addition, use “slow thinking” and “conditional sentences” more. Before subconsciously saying “I disagree” or “This is wrong,” think about the motive and background of the other party’s words, and try to use conditional sentences. To describe the other party’s situation “under… conditions, if it happens…, then…”. We often look at things with an assumption: the other party’s behavior may be due to some background information that we don’t understand, or because the environment in which he grew up makes him have such behavior and character. Although we do not necessarily agree or follow, we do not deny the rationality of its existence.

In other words, we need to realize that everything in the world is “one of ten thousand possibilities” 3 . In addition to what we see in front of us, there are 10,000 possibilities in the distance we don’t understand; in addition to the two roads within sight, there are 10,000 roads that have not been explored.

Returning to the question at the beginning of the article, before making a decision, we need to look at the world with grayscale thinking, recognize the rationality of the existence of things, and focus on more possibilities.

What we need to do next is to find the “system” of our life.

Formula 2: Goals and Systems

As we interact with the world and make all kinds of decisions, in order to make the right choices for us, we need to know “what is right for me?” In other words, I think What is the future you want?

Scott Adams gives us a possible answer in his book: We need to ditch goals and choose system. Goals refer to specific goals, such as I want to start a company, I want to study in the UK, and I want to earn one million; and system refers to a three-dimensional and specific future, which we will call a “system” for now. This system is not a specific thing or goal, but a combination of a set of life principles and a desired lifestyle in the future.

This way of looking at life using a system rather than a goal can help us avoid the situation of denying ourselves and life because of a failure, and it can also give us more room to make choices when making decisions.

For example, myself, is the beneficiary of this way of thinking.

I have a relatively complete system for the way I want to live, which in simple terms: 1. Have relative freedom (money and time) 2. Be able to achieve my potential (have the opportunity to explore what I think I am good at) ) 3. Can bring me diversity (experiences, countries, hobbies, …) 4. Satisfy my curiosity (have time to read, do research) 5. Satisfy relationships (family, friends, …). This system is in a dynamic balance, that is, the existing system can help me make some good decisions at the moment, and at the same time, new items may be added and old items may be adjusted in the future. I am open to this.

How does this system help me? For example, when I choose a job, I ask myself, can my current job choice help me meet some of the conditions mentioned above without violating other conditions? If the answer is “no”, like I have absolutely no time for myself even though the pay is very good, then maybe this is not the job I want.

For another example, when I see someone who is good, I may feel jealous, sad, and want to do something. But on second thought, is the lifestyle I want the way he lives now? Although ta is very successful, is the life behind it what I want? Thinking of this, he jumped out of the storm.

So how do you find your own system? To be honest, this question is not easy to answer, and it may take another article or even a book to explain it clearly. Let me throw out some tools first: imagine the way you want to live in the next five years (you can refer to my previous article ” I teach you how to make your dreams come true “); review the happy and unhappy moments in your life, and Analyze the reasons behind it; keep a diary, do self-analysis and records; seek professional advice, such as a coach (not the one who taught you swimming), a psychological counselor.

Next, when we know the way we want to live and are ready, or are already moving toward the goal system, is there any way to make ourselves go faster and better?

The answer I give is that by building a “metacognition” and “feeling of control” about ourselves, we can go faster and better.

Formula 3: Metacognition and Sense of Control

When we realize the rationality of the existence of all things in the world and the particularity of individuals, and know the way of life we ​​want, how should we achieve our goals?

This answer is well explained in How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adam.

In addition to many very grounded suggestions, the most important thing in this book is to provide a new perspective of looking at ourselves – if we think of our body (and what happens to us) as a programmable robot, When we change the input, then the output changes.

For example, if you change your diet, your happiness level will change; if you start “daydreaming” yourself, the future will be better. There is not necessarily a causal relationship between the two, but there is an empirically proven correlation.

The changes and experience sharing proposed by the author are based on a larger foundation, that is, understanding and thinking about one’s own body and mind, that is, “metacognition” – the cognition of one’s own thinking process- When I am happy, what makes me happy? When I’m angry, what makes me angry? Why am I feeling this way? What can happen to keep me from getting angry?

Another interesting angle is that instead of thinking of yourself as a slave to your “body” and “environment”, you should consider yourself a master of both . Under the previous thought, we will think that my emotions and physical health are caused by uncontrollable factors, and we can only accept the “body” and “environment”. But under the latter idea, we can see our body as a part of ourselves, and we have the ability to change our daily focus and energy levels by changing our diet and habits, the way we exercise, and the way we see the world. , whether the overall mood is stable, etc.

We have the ability to control the performance of our bodies, and the performance of our bodies affects our behavior and decisions, and therefore what happens around us.

This ability can also be learned. What kind of diet and exercise habits can keep you in the best state every day, how to sleep can make your bad temper no longer, and how to look at things can keep you optimistic, these are not “great gods” ability.


So, how should I get along with the world?

First of all, we need to look at the world with “grayscale thinking”, recognize the rationality of the existence of things, and look at the many possibilities of the existence of the world with an open attitude;

Secondly, to establish a system of life, you can have goals, but a single goal cannot determine the success or failure of life. Life should be three-dimensional and a way of life;

Finally, we have to believe that we have the ability to realize the system of life. Many things seem to be unchangeable, but when we think from a different angle, we can change anything, but some we can change to a low degree and some to a high degree. Especially our own bodies – we are masters of our bodies, not slaves. And when we change our bodies (diet, sleep, brain activity, etc.), the world around us begins to change.

All three ways of thinking require repeated thinking and application in order to integrate them into one’s subconscious mind. As at the beginning of the article, the reason why I spent a lot of space to record the process of finding the answer is to tell you that many important conclusions and ideas may not be generated in an instant, but through time, experience, etc. The fruit of the exercise of various inputs and outputs. Therefore, being patient is also one of the prerequisites for getting along with yourself and the world.

I hope we can find a way to get along with the world, find ourselves, and find our own stability.

Three books:

  • Asking the right questions : a guide to critical thinking by M. Neil Browne / Stuart M. Keeley
  • How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams
  • Decisive: How to Make Better Decisions by Dan Heath & Chip Heath

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