James Altucher heard someone put it like this: “Happiness equals expectations divided by reality.” Brian Koppelman is fond of the way Tony Robbins says it: “You can change only two things. Your situation or your expectations.” Me? I like to think of Anthony de Mello’s dictum: Attachment or happiness. You can only have one.
These three expressions of a similar idea coalesced as I was listening to Brian Koppelman’s appearance on The James Altucher Show, and they brought to mind a process. I’ve come to think of it as the infinite loop of self-improvement. It has three parts. Questions actually.
1) What do I want?
2) Why do I want it?
3) How do I get it?
These three questions can be used to assess any strategy, ambition or desire in any aspect of your life. Relationships. Business. Investing. You name it, the what, why and how sequence can help give you some clarity and direction.
Of the three, the Why is the most important because it is the most permanent. The most permanent, not actually permanent. The dirty secret about purpose and raison d’etres is that they change. Far more often than we’re comfortable admitting.
Take a women who’s focused on her career in her twenties. She could be a rising star, a revolution on the scene. But if she becomes pregnant her why changes. She might not drop her career and ambitions at all, but the exact permutation of the Why behind those things inevitably changes.
And the other thing about the answer to Why is that you need to go somewhere else before arriving at it. “Why?” is not a question you ask in isolation. It needs an object. I can only ask why after I’ve figured out the What that is going to be challenged by it. So in the infinite loop, expect to spend a lot of time going back and forth between “What do I want?” and “Why do I want it?”
If Why is the most important, what about What and How? Of course, they matter too. But less because they’re far from permanent. The terrain is always shifting and the tools we can use and access are always evolving. So the answers to these two questions are liable, no, likely, to change. And probably sooner than you think.
There you have it. The infinite loop of self-improvement. Try it out. Ask yourself those three questions. What do I want? Why do I want it? And how do I get it?