Why pursue personal growth at all? Why set goals, practice and change your habits?
What does it mean to grow? Is it to become wiser, more loving, healthier or wealthier? Why do any of these things even matter?
Here’s my theory:
To grow is to increase your ability to get more of what you want, and less of what you don’t want.
We want things because we expect them to give us more pleasure or reduce pain.
In other words:
To grow is to increase your ability to get more pleasure and less pain.
A good theory is elegant: it explains as much as possible while being as simple as possible. In my opinion, this theory fits that description.
Does exclusively seeking pleasure and and avoiding pain make you selfish? Yes, because your ultimate goal is a selfish one. No, because this does not necessarily conflict with other’s intentions.
Hurting others makes them feel bad, which makes you feel bad about yourself (= pain).
Helping others makes them feel good, which makes you feel good about yourself (= pleasure).
Statistics show that helping others is one of the things that make people the happiest.
So why does conflict exist? I see two options
- People don’t realize that helping others leads to more happiness
- There’s an actual conflict in intentions
I suspect the former is more common in our civilized world.
The reason this matters is that once you realize it’s happiness (pleasure) you’re really after, you can pursue it more directly and effectively.
Where does this leave the purpose of life? I think my purpose is to grow. Filling in the definition results in
I believe the purpose of my live is to increase my ability to get more pleasure and less pain.
Which doesn’t sound very compelling to me. More thought is needed.