To What Should We Aspire?

How do you want to improve? To what should we aspire? If you don’t know where you want to go, it can be very difficult to get there.

We can hope and work to get better. That may mean personal improvement. It may mean local or community goals. Or even international or global ideals that we as a species hope to attain.

What do you, as an individual, aspire to? How will that be accomplished?

Related questions: Is happiness the most important purpose in life? How do you define success? What is important? How do you set priorities?

What Deserves Your Attention?

Our brains are remarkable entities. We can perform some truly amazing mental feats, like learning language, memorization, pattern matching, and reading maps (among others). One of the less heralded skills is that of providing attention.

Every waking moment, your mind is focused on a task (and sometimes more than one if you try to multi-task). How you choose to spend your time is how your attention is allocated.

In our modern world, there is fierce competition for our attention. This serves as an illustration about how valuable it is. Entire industries revolve around how to capture — and keep — your attention.

In The News

For example, let’s consider a cable news program. A typical news show features several different items for you to pay attention to. An interview might be going on, so you might be listening to the content being spoken aloud. There is likely a graphic with the guest’s name and qualifications. This sometimes also updates to a notable quote or excerpt from the interview.

In addition, there may be a news scroll across the bottom of the screen with news headlines, and there may be a “breaking news” blurb specifically designed to draw your eyes. Often included is some sort of steady information, like the current time and temperature, or the state of the stock market. Finally, there is certainly a station identifier, to let you know exactly what channel you are viewing.

Having so much information available serves several purposes. The primary purpose — say, the interview — is presumably the reason to tune in initially. The others are there to provide information that might be helpful to you, but also to keep you from giving your attention to another source.

When you are watching a program like this, your attention is primarily focused on one item. However, there is likely some small percentage of your attention on each element on the screen.

Demands Of Social Media

Have you ever noticed that when using  a social media site like Facebook or Twitter, that you mean to do a quick check, but then find that half an hour or even more has passed without you realizing it? That happens because the layout and design of these sites are carefully crafted to capture and keep your attention. Facebook wants you to keep scrolling and Netflix wants you to keep binging.

With so many different demands on our valuable attention, have you given any thought to how you spend your time? News, family, your smartphone, the local sports team, a book: what deserves our attention?

Related questions: How do you set priorities? Are we too busy? What do you get out of social media? Is our attention fractured?

Should We Be Concerned With Legacy?

When thinking about your life, is it valuable to think about your legacy? That is, should it matter what you leave behind you after you die?

In life, there is an advantage to having people think well of you. It can help attract good, thoughtful, productive people to you. It can help remove obstacles. Overall, it can make your life easier and more pleasant.

However, that advantage would seem to disappear after you die. How your memory lives on doesn’t confer any direct advantage.¬† There may be some indirect value to your family and loved ones, but that gets harder and harder to quantify as time goes on.

That approach is largely transactional, however. Is there a strictly moral component? Is it important that you are remembered as a good person after you die? If so, how much of your time and resources while alive should be devoted to trying to secure a legacy of some sort?

After all, we all have a limited amount of time and energy in our lives. How does the priority of establishing a legacy place against other earthly concerns? Like food and shelter, or accrual of wealth or status, or feeling contented or fulfilled? Or does how you go about fulfilling your daily needs become part of your legacy?

Is the idea one of the first things you abandon when faced with tough choices about life? To put it another way, is thinking about a legacy a luxury that only the upper class get to consider?

Do you think about how your name will outlive you? Do you take steps in your daily life to alter that? Should we be concerned with legacy? What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?

Related questions: What gives a person value? Why do we care what strangers think of us? How do you think others see you? What gives you purpose? What are you doing to make the world a better place?

Why Are We Here?

This is a question that people have been pondering for as long as mankind has existed. Is there a purpose to life? Why are we here?

Each one of us, consciously or not, answers this question. We manage to get out of bed each morning and start our day. In order to do that, we must find a purpose.

Maybe that purpose is focused on the future. In order to fill our hungry bellies at the end of the day, we need to work to make that happen. We are here to make money. To live more comfortably next year, it is important to organize and plan now. Some even think that this life is just preparation for the next. We are here to to get to where we will be next.

Similarly, others are focused on the present. We do what makes us happy in the moment, from spending time with friends and loved ones, to hobbies, to physical or mental challenges. We are here to make the most of what we have.

In contrast, there are some that treat life, and the universe where we live, as a giant puzzle that we try to solve. Life is like the ultimate escape room scenario. We are here to figure out how the world works.

In addition, some people purposely do not think about it. If you follow the example set by your peers, then perhaps a purpose will reveal itself. Go to college, get married, buy a house, have a few children. At some point, one hopes, we’ll figure out why we are doing what we are doing. We don’t know why we are here, but we’ll figure it out eventually.

While you can look to others, like a parent, or a religious or spiritual figure, ultimately it falls to us to set our own purpose. To find our own meaning. Maybe you think there is a grand plan. Or maybe you think life is a series of random events. But the meaning is what we bring to it.

What is the meaning that you bring to it? Do you see a larger purpose? Lastly, how does your meaning impact how you live your life?

Related questions: Is happiness the most important purpose in life? What is important? Are science and religion compatible? What is unknowable?

What Are Your Values?

Our values help define us as individuals. They also help to guide us in making decisions that effect our lives.

Money plays an important role in our lives. You need money to buy food and shelter, not to mention recreational items.

And yet, most people would not list “money” as a value. If you don’t go to the effort of consciously listing what your values are, it can be all too easy to let money be the primary driving force in our lives.

So if, for example, farmers’ rights are important to you, you might spend more money on fair trade food items at the grocery store. If you are worried about single-use plastics, you might go to the extra effort to bring reusable containers to a restaurant if you have leftovers.

Having stated values can make it easier to make a decision, if one of the choices aligns with your values more than another.

Of course, thriftiness might well be a value of yours. That’s completely understandable, as money is a concern for most of us. However, even then it can be helpful to have that value stated explicitly.

Oftentimes, businesses are encouraged to make a list of company values, and distribute those among the company employees, so everyone knows what they are or should be working toward. The same thing is true of individuals or of households.

What are your values? Have you given any thought to them? How did you decide which ones would be most important to you? Do you discuss these values with others? And how do you handle a difference in values with friends, family members, co-workers, or neighbors?

Related questions: Is happiness the most important purpose in life? How do you define success? What is important? How do you set priorities? What gives you purpose?