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TB#49: Avoid the Significance Trap

2023-11-25

Your Need of Significance is a Trap

If you’re anything like me, you are in a seemingly never-ending loop of putting down fires everywhere.

There’s always a task or another somewhere that needs your attention.

And somehow, for some reason, you enjoy it.

I mean, at the end of the day, yes it feels good to sit back and think of all the crap you got done. You deserve that beer now! Feels good – oh yes it does. Go to bed satisfied with yourself.

And wake up to the sound of fires crackling everywhere again.

So you get your little fire truck and get to work.

Repeat, every day.

And get nowhere.

What if I told you some of those fires don’t need to be put down? Or, to be more precise, they don’t need to be put down by you. There are other people who can do this.

And if you’ve ever seen fires in the nature, some of them just… burn harmlessly until they burn no more. They slowly wither away. No harm done.

The reason you want to help everyone right now is your need to feel significant.

And that’s not a good longing to have. Because significance is short-lived. You have to get your fix for it every day. Again and again and again and again.

Even when it’s not needed.

So sometimes it makes sense for you to choose your battles more carefully. Sometimes you must admit not all fires need your attention. And only give it to the ones that _really_ need you.

In our busy lives, this is the only way to free bandwidth to what really counts:

Direct your Energy to Growth

Self-growth is almost a meme. But it’s not.

When you grow, you’ll be able to give more.

And when you give more, you will be more… Can you guess what?

More significant!

So, here’s what to do. A prescription, if you will:

  1. Recognize that your need for acknowledgement is hoarding your time & energy
  2. Prioritize way more ruthlessly than you think you should: not all tasks are important
  3. Focus on personal growth: What knowledge, skills and relationships are truly meaningful?
  4. Remember the long game. Pace yourself, and make steps 1-3 above your new reality

It’s tempting to be the hero, I get it. Always jumping left and right to save the day.

But in the long run it’s counterproductive.

And the first step to freeing yourself from this cycle is recognizing the underlying desire driving your actions: Your pointless need for significance.

Plus, when you grow, you’ll have more to give, leading to bigger significance almost automagically.

Source for all this?

Me, of course.

The mirror.

Recap of The Box this Week:

  • Acknowledge your need for significance
  • Let some fires extinguish themselves
  • Work on yourself

About the author 

Simo Hosio  -  Simo is an award-winning scientist, Academy Research Fellow, research group leader, professor, and digital builder. This site exists to empower people to build passion projects that support professional growth and make money.

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