Change your defaults

Most lives are lived by default_, on David Cain’s blog _Raptitude, is a favourite piece of mine.

The day-to-day feel and quality of each of our lives sits on a few major structures: where we live, what we do for a living, what we do with ourselves when we’re not at work, and which people we spend most of our time with.

Those four structures – which mostly are handed to us by happenstance – determine the shape of our lives. We choose from the options day-to-day life presents us, but these structures bound those options. Of course, this raises a scary thought: your life is probably sub-optimal. “Chances are very slight that there isn’t a drastically better neighborhood for you out there, a more kindred circle of peers, a much better line of work, and a much more rewarding way to go about your day[.]” Even worse, status quo bias blinds you to the possibility that some other life might be better for you. But change any of those four structures, and your life changes substantially, too.

It might get better, or it might get worse. You don’t know until the change is made. This uncertainty is enough to keep most people from bothering. But they should bother, as a rule. … If the new situation does resonate, then you’re closer to finding what’s right for you, what’s optimal for your sense of well-being.

So change your defaults to change your life. A simple first step: break out of your script and do something that nobody’s expecting you to do – the more un-self-directed, the better.