Reposted from the alpha blog back in the day - from Spencer Thompson
I think a lot of the world’s problems come from the fact that we are, as a species, very poor at framing things against other things. There are multiple terms for this, including: zooming in vs. zooming out, being proactive vs. reactive, or having a micro vs. macro view of the world. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to be using the latter terminology.
What do I mean by this? If you observe most people, you will notice that the problems that they face are relatively insignificant to everyone but themselves. Of course this is to be expected. However, very often this personal view of the world limits people to a degree that is often damaging. I think that many of the problems that people have are a result of having not been taught to frame things in a micro. vs macro way.
First, some terms. Micro, or microscopic, in this context means small, or things related to you personally. Macro, or macroscopic, means large, or things related to many people. I use these distinctions because most people are familiar with them from economics, and the same sorts of principles apply to people.
Most people live in a bubble. That bubble is defined by their circle of influence. Very often that can be detrimental when it comes to making life decisions. Most of us are raised by our parents to have a very microscopic view of the world. Any hardship that falls upon us is massive in nature, because we have nothing to frame it against. A relationship ending, a job loss, or moving houses can seem like overwhelming tasks or events, even though these are extremely small in nature.
Why is this an issue? Aren’t these problems important? Of course they are, but you can’t lose perspective of where you are in the world. If you spend 3 months stressing about a move to a house down the block, you are probably making yourself sick for absolutely no reason.
One of the best principles I have ever learned is something called the “zoom out, zoom in” theory. Whenever you are facing a problem or situation, try and zoom “out” of your body to 20,000 feet, and look down on yourself. Then look at everyone else on the planet. Have a macro view on what is going on in the world. Are people facing a natural disaster? Poverty? Murder? A massive fire down the block? What is happening? While zoomed out, give yourself the perspective you need to center yourself, and then zoom back in. How important is that problem now? Probably not very.
I was once given a piece of advice, and while it may sound harsh, it is very true and is extremely helpful. The advice is - “nobody cares”. Next time you think that you are having “the worst day ever” because your local beer store ran out of your favourite beer, or because you lost a brilliant employee, or because your friend forgot to buy you something for your birthday, remember - nobody outside of yourself and your circle cares. That should give you enough perspective from a macro level to significantly decrease the severity of the situation, and should allow you to deal with it on a normal level.
This can be applied to life very easily, and more specifically - careers. Most people attack career discovery from a micro level. I want a job = I need a job right now = what job can I get right now. Very few people zoom out to imagine themselves five years from now, and see how that job will affect their life a few years from now. When approaching career development, give yourself the respect that you deserve and take a macroscopic look at your life. Ignore things that don’t align what that view and then make decisions accordingly.
Very few people understand the residual power that small actions actually have. Meeting people for coffee, building relationships, reading books, working out, eating healthy, etc… are all things that take a very macro perspective. They don’t give instant gratification, they take a very long time to pay off, if ever. If you can master the ability to consistently frame your actions against a macroscopic perspective, your short term actions actually become small long term decisions. That small shift should make your life a lot easier, because you put less pressure on every action you take right now.
Look at your decisions like you are picking a stock or portfolio of stocks. Are you going to try and beat the market by taking a micro perspective on an industry? Or are you going to plan 20 years out, take a macro perspective on all industries, and plan around that? Very few people beat the market on a short-term basis, and even when they do, they often lose in the next year. The reason? They are not in control - even though they think they are.
The lesson here is - stop craving instant gratification. We are a society that thrives on it. We make decisions about our lives like we are choosing which app to download. Actually, we often take more time to decide which Angry Birds we are going to download. Why is this? Is life not important to you? Of course it is - but thinking on a macro level is hard work. However, I think that if you can master the ability to frame all of your decisions against something larger, life becomes a lot less stressful. You put less pressure on yourself for each action you take, and you can approach life being thankful for the things you do have. Remember - we have already won the lottery - just take the time to appreciate it.