Author and entrepreneur Derek Sivers writes in a blog post
that when you’re making important life decisions, you should always consider the following three factors:
- What makes you happy
- What’s smart – good for you in the long run
- What’s useful to other people
As Sivers points out, you’ll know you’re on the right path when your decision is at the intersection of all three.
The problem is that we tend to forget at least one of these factors, as illustrated by the below profiles.
The overachiever: smart and useful (not happy)
This is the stereotype of the strict parent who says:
You have to go to the best school, get perfect grades, become a doctor or lawyer, and make a lot of money. What you want to do doesn’t matter – this is what’s best for you and your family.
The smart and useful approach is rational, like a machine.
But if you don’t have happiness acting as the oil, “the friction kills the engine.”
The self-improvement addict: happy and smart (not useful)
This person is always learning, and is obsessively focused on how to be happy and create a perfect life.
What could be wrong with that?
For Sivers, the problem is that becoming fulfilled and successful isn’t a solo exercise: “Ultimately you must be lifted by those around you.”
The “charity volunteer”: happy and useful (not smart)
After graduating from an expensive university, this person spends years “flying to exotic impoverished places to dig wells and thatch roofs.”
But if their time could be worth $200 per hour, and they’re doing work that the locals themselves could be do better for $10 per hour, then their actions are actually a disservice to others.
They have wonderful intentions but poor strategies, resulting in “wasted effort and unused potential.”
The hedonist: just happy (not smart or useful)
For this person, being happy is all that matters.
But there are two downsides:
- You’ll be full of regret if you only think about today, and don’t prepare for tough times in the future.
- If you only serve yourself and not others, you’ll eventually feel unrewarded.