Favor the useful above the true

Reality is good, but you deserve better.

Having an accurate view of yourself and the world is desirable to the extent that it serves you. Usually it does, but when it doesn’t, don’t feel that you have to value truth above all else. Instead, favor the useful above the true, and the true just to the extent that it’s useful. Seek truth as a means, and value as an end.

For most people, daily life is a barrage of deceptions, distortions, manipulations. Powerful external forces ceaselessly aim to shape their thoughts, beliefs, behavior. For them, moving in the direction of truth would be beneficial. But you should be setting your sights higher. After seeing through these externally cultivated illusions, I encourage you to internally cultivate a few illusions of your own.

What types of illusions are beneficial? Ones for which your expectations can influence reality in positive ways. Foster an illusion of excess optimism, an illusion of excess self-esteem, and an illusion of excess control. All three will help you to think bigger, take more risks, and be more resilient. Paradoxically, these illusions will enable you to create very real success, happiness and meaning.

What types of illusions are detrimental? Ones that enable others to manipulate you. Ones you cling to because you fear you’re too fragile to accept the truth. Ones that distort your fundamentals, and encourage you to pursue false happiness or false meaning. These illusions are hurting you, not helping you.

How can you favor the useful above the true? Examine your current beliefs to determine if they help or hinder you. Actively seek out useful beliefs. We tend to believe what we want to believe; use this to your advantage by wanting to believe illusions that serve you. Live yourself into better beliefs, by getting into situations that will strengthen useful beliefs and weaken current harmful beliefs. If you want to believe something, act like you already do. Create your desired reality by acting like it already exists.

But don’t stray too far from reality. As with so much in life, the best route is the middle way. Think illusion, not delusion. If this self-deception feels too extreme for you, or if you think knowing that you’re deceiving yourself undermines any attempt at self-deception, then instead of turning away from reality, turn toward the subset of reality that serves you best. Most circumstances and events allow for multiple interpretations. Choose the interpretations that help you move toward your ideal life.

You’re striving to live an amazing life and do big, big things. Don’t let anything get in your way. Not even reality.

Today's Activity

  • Make a list of the 10 to 20 beliefs that have the greatest impact on the course your life is taking. (Beliefs often operate beneath conscious awareness, so it may take some digging to uncover them.) Think about the consequences of believing each. Does it give you more or less power and choice? Does it move you toward or away from living the life you want? Consider modifying any beliefs that impede your pursuit of your ideal life.
  • If this exercise helps you, use it for new beliefs you encounter. Don't continue to evaluate new beliefs based solely on whether you think they're true. Instead, consider whether believing them will help you live the life you want.