5 Signs You Are Wasting Your Life (Objections)

Megan Holstein
Dec 29, 2019 · Unlisted

(Backdated May 2019)

I wrote an article a little while ago that got tremendously popular with the self-help crowd, 5 Signs You Are Wasting Your Life. It’s a pretty simple list:

  1. You don’t get out of bed quickly upon waking.
  2. You spend more than an hour or two a day on aimless activities.
  3. You don’t feel ready for bed at the end of each day
  4. You spend more of your time planning than doing
  5. You worry what others think of you

The article did quite well. After a week and a half live, it’s earned around $400 and is set to make more. Despite the high readership, though, most of the comments were negative. Any given negative comment raised one of three objections:

  • “You realize life is about more than money, right?”
  • “How dare you tell me how to spend my life, you arrogant fuck”
  • “Life isn’t just about being productive 24/7. We need downtime too.”

Here I will address these objections in order:

“You realize life is about more than just money, right?”

Yes, I realize this, or I wouldn’t have become a career writer. 😂 If you think life is about money, being a writer is one of the saddest jobs out there.

Purpose does not necessarily mean career goal, and productivity does not necessarily mean productivity at work. Equating productivity to productivity at work is one of the biggest problems self-help literature has — I’ve written about it before. I personally think productivity advice is most helpful when we apply it to personal change (losing weight, getting active, making friends) as opposed to work responsibilities. All productivity advice can do at work is make you more money, but in your personal life it can lift you out of the proverbial mud.

“How dare you tell me how to spend my life you piece of shit — “

Calm down. When I say you need a purpose, I’m not making a moral judgment. I’m making a materialistic claim — people who don’t have a purpose for getting out of bed suffer. People with no purpose report in studies that their lives are less meaningful¹. If you don’t speak academic, this means people who live lives with no purpose tell us they are more miserable than people who do. The science seems to be in — if you want to be happy, you need a reason to get out of bed.

For the purposes of this article (ha ha), your purpose can be anything. My purpose is writing. One of my closest friends’ purpose is saving for retirement and learning chess. Your purpose might be keeping your mother company. Your purpose can be anything, as long as you have one.

“Life isn’t just about being productive 24/7. We need downtime too.”

I don’t believe in being productive all of the time, or even most of the time². I myself only work 15 to 20 hours a week. The point of “5 Signs You Are Wasting Your Life” was not to get you to be productive 24 hours a day. It was to help you realize, potentially, that you do not have a guiding purpose in your life. A guiding purpose only shows you where you’re going, not how fast you should get there.

I don’t blame people for having any of these objections. The vast majority of self-help articles out there seem to be geared toward millennial white men who work in software development with too many projects on their plate who want to ship more code in less time. Very few articles seem to be written for people like me, people whose principal concern is not extracting the most dollars but living the best life we can.

If you’ve made it all the way here, I imagine you’re one of them. It’s nice to meet you (: let’s chat.

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1: People often ask themselves “how happy does this make me,” but study after study indicates that often what makes us most miserable at the time makes us happiest in the long run, like training for a marathon or going back to school. In contrast, asking someone if their life is ‘meaningful’ is a good way of assessing long-term happiness.

2: From what I can tell, the most creative acts require a person take the most downtime as well as part of their process. Think of the writer who reads six to twelve books for research, or the professional painter who walks for the park hours a day for days to prep for an intricate painting of a tree. They do not ‘work’ very much yet are tremendously ‘productive.’

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