Derek Sivers
from the book “Useful Not True”:

Daily run, part two


In my previous post, “a daily run” — (please read it first) — running was a metaphor for whatever actions you take in your life. The story is about how we choose beliefs because they’re useful, not true.

Beliefs make emotions. Emotions make actions.

Actions come from emotions. Emotions come from beliefs. So choose whatever belief makes you take the action you want.

Picturing one future makes you quit. Picturing another future makes you jump out of bed, full of inspiration and action. A single thought can exhaust you or motivate you.

One belief makes you act selfish. Another belief makes you act generous. One thought makes you do something stupid. Another thought makes you do something smart. What matters is the action they create. So choose the thought that works for you.

In the story, picturing a pot of gold, or a tiger, or hot coals, made real improvements in the runner’s actions.

Adopt beliefs for your current needs only.

What works for others might not work for you. What you needed yesterday might not be what you need today. Life is nuanced. Choose your goals and beliefs only for how they help you now.

Last week, my over-confidence was getting in the way of my learning. So I chose to believe I’m bad at this and have a lot to learn. This week it’s time to perform, so to summon the courage, I choose to believe I’m great at this. Neither belief is true, but I adopted them because they helped me take the right actions.

Drop beliefs that aren’t helping you anymore. Ignore social pressure to be the way you used to be.

In the story, picturing a pot of gold didn’t work well in the past, but later worked great during a different situation.

Adopt beliefs just for fun, to try different ways of being.

Don’t over-focus on the usual goal. Take your eyes off the prize and look around. Creative experiments, curiosity, and adventures are fun. Fun is always a legitimate and underrated goal.

Different beliefs serve different goals.

Gurus and pundits prescribe their beliefs. But their prescription might only apply if you have a very specific situation and destination. Advice should come with this disclaimer.

Don’t care whether something is true — only whether it works for you.

When you declare a belief to be true, it closes minds, cements identities, and leads to tribal fights with anyone who doesn’t find that belief to be true for them.

Beliefs are a means to improve actions. To say that one belief is the best — that one is right and others are wrong — is ignorant of the purpose of beliefs, and the nuanced differences in people’s current needs.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject, and how the explanation could be improved. This will probably be the topic of my next book.

trail through forest
photo © Josephine Stenudd