This won't take but a minute, and I promise this won't be a waste of your time. It's three steps ...Step 1: Get out a pen and paper. You don't need much, an old receipt or something. Write down, in just a few words, what you did yesterday. Leave out the sleeping, eating, pooping, etc. And be totally honest, nobody is going to see it but you. So maybe it's something like:
8 am - 5 pm: working
5 pm - 7 pm: browsing the Internet, catching up with everybody on facebook, masturbating
8 pm - 9 pm: talking on phone with a friend
9 pm - midnight: playing an iPhone game, scrolling through Netflix menus
Perfect, you're half done. If you want to stop and take a break, enjoy this animated gif:
Feel refreshed? Good.
Step 2: On a separate piece of paper, write down in just a few words the five things that are most important in life. Roughly in order. Like, right now if I look out my window I can see a dude in the parking lot about to climb into his pickup truck. If I ran out and forced him to do this, he might come up with:
1. Serving the Lord
2. Raising my family
3. Being loyal to my friends
4. Growing my business
5. Preserving freedom
Our readership tends to be a little younger and more liberal, so for a lot of you, your list of life priorities will look something like:
1. Being loyal to my friends & family
2. Advancing my career (or education)
3. Finding my soulmate
4. Making the world better for the future (ending pollution, racism, etc.)
5. Learning to play guitar
Both are perfectly fine lists, I'm no one to judge. Now, if you write above the list, "I believe in ..." then that is in effect your Philosophy of Life. If somebody asked you what your philosophy of life was, like if you were the finalist in a beauty pageant or something, you could read that off. "I believe in being loyal to my friends, advancing my education ..." and it'd sound pretty good. Now ...
Step 3: Go back to your log of things you did yesterday, and re-arrange it in order of time spent, from most to least. So for our hypothetical person it'd be working, then playing the iPhone game, then browsing the internet, then talking to the friend.
Write "I believe in ..." at the top.
That is your real philosophy of life.
Take the other piece of paper and throw it away. It's meaningless.
"Bullshit!" you might say. "You can't judge me based on yesterday! I was really tired when I got home from work, and just wanted to chill!" Hey, I'm not judging you! I once lost an entire Wednesday afternoon trying to get a hat to stay on a rabbit. But if you think yesterday was an outlier, then go ahead and tally up the last month. If you're like me and every single person I know, your two lists -- the things you said were important and the things you actually spend time and energy on -- bear no resemblance to one another.
The pickup truck guy up there who ranked it Religion, Family, Friends, Career, and Freedom? Log his time and you'll find his waking hours are 70 percent working at the car dealership, 20 percent Chicago sports fandom, and 10 percent avoiding conversation with his family. His service to The Lord consists of tolerating one hour of church a week and hating gay people; his dedication to freedom involves spending five minutes a day posting anti-Obama image macros on Facebook and voting once every other decade.
And just to be clear -- the good-sounding life philosophy list he posted earlier wasn't intended to make himself sound good to other people. It's what he tells himself. That guy you saw at Whole Foods really does think in his own mind that "saving the environment" is right at the top of his list. But his total time and energy spent on the cause adds up to occasionally spending an extra dollar on the brand with the picture of leaves on the label.
So there you go. If you want to know where you'll be five years from now, you don't need a crystal ball. Just look at your philosophy of life -- your real one, the one based on actual time spent. That's who you are, and that's who you'll be five years from now, or 10, or 20. You are what you spend time doing. And nothing else.
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David Wong is the Executive Editor of Cracked and the writer of 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person.