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Oliver Burkeman spent over a decade writing life advice.
He's also written one of the most popular time-management books of the last decade in Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals.
In short, he has credibility and knows enough to move past trite statements and well-worn aphorisms.
The last column of life advice he wrote for The Guardian contains a concept I was not familiar with, but one that hit me in the heart like a brick sealing into place.
That concept is "enlargement."
Here's the full text from Burkeman's column:
When stumped by a life choice, choose “enlargement” over happiness. I’m indebted to the Jungian therapist James Hollis for the insight that major personal decisions should be made not by asking, “Will this make me happy?”, but “Will this choice enlarge me or diminish me?” We’re terrible at predicting what will make us happy: the question swiftly gets bogged down in our narrow preferences for security and control. But the enlargement question elicits a deeper, intuitive response. You tend to just know whether, say, leaving or remaining in a relationship or a job, though it might bring short-term comfort, would mean cheating yourself of growth. (Relatedly, don’t worry about burning bridges: irreversible decisions tend to be more satisfying, because now there’s only one direction to travel – forward into whatever choice you made.)
What I love about this is how Burkeman speaks to the innate wisdom people have buried in their own feelings.
When pursuing fulfillment, don't chase happiness.
In my own experience, I know that trying to choose something to make me happy is a hopeless chase.
Happiness is not a goal to be achieved.
It is a state that happens when you stop chasing and start being.
Time after time, my life has gotten better when I choose myself and my own personal growth.
I've left jobs because they tried to fit me into a box rather than giving me the creativity to improve and expand the role.
And I've gradually exited friendships because they were so constrictive and one-sided.
Why This Matters For Your Mental Health: Fulfillment Comes Back to Your Choices in Daily Life, Not One Specific Path Leading to a Happy Life
If you want a happier life, your best bet is to make daily choices that enlarge you.
An everyday life made up of those choices is bound to put you on the right path for you.
A happy life is one in which you choose yourself and your own growth.
That means choosing yourself so that you choose meaningful relationships and healthy relationships, choosing yourself so that you choose positive feelings instead of negative emotions, and choosing yourself so that you walk into a big life of opportunity instead of being backed into a small life that doesn't serve you.