How To Accomplish Little And Feel Great

At no time in the world will a man who is sane
Over-reach himself,
Over-spend himself,
Over-rate himself.
-Lao Tzu

All is vanity. What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun?
-Ecclesiastes 1:2-3

Sell not yourself at little price,
being so precious in God’s eyes.
-Rumi

The world wants you to be the best you can be. The message is relentless and you may not have even thought of trying anything less. It has brainwashed you into believing that striving for success is essential for your well-being. What does “best” mean and can everybody be “best”. Many times, striving for best is actually killing you. Well, to be contented and happy you can get away from giving less than your very best. It is about finding the right balance and the right amount of effort and that is a lot less than what you have been led to believe. You will then realize that your commitment to excellence is the source of your trouble. Then you will start to turn everything down a notch.

Mediocrity is the key to happiness. The world does not really care. It is a simple fact of life that your successes and failures really do not matter to nearly everybody alive. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you will feel comfortable and get on with underachievement. Even your friends, colleagues, neighbors and family do not really care for your success; because success is often relative and if you succeed, they have relatively lost. Our sense of satisfaction is relative to our standing relative to others and if we have less we suffer. This constant comparison with people who are more successful, smarter or beautiful breeds frustration and jealousy. It is suffering. But we all do it. Why?

We have been taught that achievement is our friend. We get positive feedback and rewards for achieving things and negative feedback and punishment for failing to achieve. There is nothing wrong in trying to improve ourselves but we kid ourselves into thinking that achievement is absolutely essential, like an addiction in order to live well. But what it does is it corrupts our bodies, minds, feelings, heart and soul. So the key is to retrain your mind and soul, to develop healthy attitudes to ensure that you never fall into the trap of high-intensity, strive-for-success-at-all-costs thinking. 

Now, let us explore the ten principles of underachievement:

Life’s too short. We all think that we are going to live for ever. But remember, nobody has got out of this world alive so far. In geologic time, that is less than a second away. You can drive yourself into a frenzy trying to do as much as you can while you are here, or you can relax and enjoy your split second. It’s your choice.

Control is an illusion. None of us is in total control of our lives, and if you think you are, then you are under a delightful illusion. Most of your life is not under your control, including your success, wealth, etc. So just relax, and live.

Expectations lead to misery. Because when you have a expectation, there is a good chance that something will go amiss.

Great expectations lead to great misery.

Achievement creates expectations. Expectations to do better, and better, and better, and…. suffering.

The law of diminishing returns applies everywhere. Benefits don’t continue to accrue at the same rate as effort or investment, whether it is money, swimming pool, tennis court, pool table, penthouse, or the 100 dollar wine bottle. At some point, in almost any endeavor, the curve flattens out and may even begin to dip. More is not always better, and good enough is good enough.

Perfect is the enemy of the good. If you want to be perfect, then the adequate, enjoyable, or even plain good won’t do  and that is horrible. If something is worth doing at all, sometimes it worth doing imperfectly.

The tallest blade of grass is sure to be cut. Accomplishment is not usually the source of admiration, it is usually the source of envy and resentment. If you are the best, make sure others do not recognize it.

Accomplishment is in the eye of the beholder. Do you really care about what someone has achieved in an activity you neither know or care a whit about?

The 4% value added principle. We are 96% identical to chimpanzees. The most successful and most unaccomplished people-all of us. So being alive itself is a great achievement.

So,

Work slowly and steadily, like the tortoise, not the hare. Make sure you spend time with family rather than be always at work. Spend time on hobbies and things you really like to do. Remember that ugly people have good sex too. Assume that there are many perfect mates you can find and if you have found one already, remember that one is good enough. Don’t demand perfection in your relationships and don’t create expectations in your relationships. Eat what you like in moderation; after all this body is going to rot someday and starving is not going to prevent it. Don’t spend a lot of money on fitness. Just walk. Do something with your upper body. Stretch yourself. Sleep a lot. Be satisfied with little. Then the wealth ratio: what you have/what you want is >1 and you have money to invest which you can put in index funds and match the market and beat 98% of people over the long run. If you live this way you will have healthier, durable relationships, more time to enjoy a wide variety of activities and save money. Don’t stress your kids too much; allow them to blossom in their own way and time. Encourage them but do not pressurize them. Kids are messy and life is messy too but beautiful. Enjoy the messiness. Realize that you are part of the Divine as is everybody else and evolution towards realizing our oneness with the Divine never ends as is the Divine expressing Himself in Her world. We are all on the path and the path is everywhere.

Once you do the above,

serenity
peaceful work relations
moderate fitness
smooth commutes
friendship
humble faith
sustainable economic growth
low blood pressure
contentment

is all yours for the taking.

Underachievement is the key to happiness in your life, and for everyone else around you. Stop worrying about not being perfect. Dedicate yourselves to the pleasures and benefits of mediocrity. Remember, underachievement is not about doing nothing. It’s about the right effort at the right time, in the right place. And not one bit more. Go ahead and start living life to the minimum. Don’t strive for success against your own best interests. Don’t take any so-called achievement seriously. Because you are already good enough.

You must always work not just within, but below your means. If you can handle three elements, handle only two. If you can handle ten, then handle only five. In that way, the one you do handle, you handle with more ease, more mastery, and you create a feeling of strength in reserve.

Pablo Picasso

notes from the book: The Underachiever’s Manifesto by Ray Bennett 

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