Although obvious when you think about it, most people do not think much about the difference between a true "end value" (which is of actual value) and the means to experiencing that value.  As a human, if we don't think more deeply, we will naturally experience "pleasure" from making progress in something that will lead to happiness - and then we will tend to think that the means IS the happiness.


Again, the classics that lead to the Greek tragedy of life are:

1.  Earning money to excess, well past the extra value to happiness and displacing what one could do that will have a much greater, and direct, impact on happiness.  Everybody seems to "at least, in theory" understand that, though some people fail to adjust their lives accordingly and proceed to live the lives of a lemming, compulsively going to the sea and drowning. 

2.  Making contributions to others (an organization, a cause, etc.).  People will actually cross the line, ignorantly, of making too much sacrifice and not stopping the sacrifice because they do not realize that the extra value of "another contribution" has dropped to being small or at least smaller.  They do not see that they are diminishing the value in life, because they think the value is in this "means goal".  Contribution "feels good" by itself.  Contribution makes one feel better about oneself - more noble, more admired (they think), more approved of by authority figures or people they are dependent upon, even more approved of by God, and such.  Once the extra contribution goes beyond having a high payoff into a very low extra payoff for the extra effort, some people still continue.  Those people continue giving up doing other things of higher value... 

3.  Trying to please others, beyond what is truly productive.  The excess in this area, just as in the prior examples, is a killer of life, a killer of doing what is of more value, of more benefit, to life.

4.  Thinking something is an absolute or a "must".


It is necessary to consciously think about the definitions and to distinguish (differentiate) between the two.

The classic failure to distinguish is the familiar type of individual who keeps seeking more money but at a cost of what is more valuable in life once one has enough money. 

In a few growth workshops, they use to use the term "don't eat the menu".  The meaning is that the pretty pictures of the food are not the food itself - and they are not very nourishing in the physical sense.  (See The Great Motivator:  Believed Payoffs, But At What Cost?

Also, in some workshops they try to steer people to differentiate between an 'in order to" and the actual end point, so that they wouldn't get stuck in a strategy that they were doing "in order to" get some reward - and/or figure out a way to get the end product in a more direct way.  If they were able to distinguish the difference, they would have less of a tendency to keep on doing the "in order to" when it no longer worked. 

Essentially, this illustrated why people aren't as smart as rats, as insulting as that might sound.  Essentially, rats stop going down the same tunnel if they discover there is no longer any cheese at the other end.  People keep going down the same tunnel (their behavior and hoping) believing that somehow the cheese will be there, though it never is or will be again. 

The question to ask is always:  Is this going to reasonably produce what I truly value?

And, it is probably a good idea to ask "Am I being realistic about this?"  (Have I gone past the point where it is reasonable to assume that it will get me what I want?)


This is not a small thing. 

People waste their lives in relationships, sometimes even very abusive ones, that continue to have a negative payoff - thinking that relationships, no matter the quality, will lead to happiness (or that it is proper to love, for then you will be rewarding for standing by the other person...). 

People waste their lives chasing the wrong things: fame, money, partying, experiencing lots of job stress working too hard for money and giving up family and relationships.



This one fellow I know, who is a pretty wise fellow overall and fairly well "enlightened" by growth workshops, went to The Option Institute to straighten out his thinking on his marriage.  He was "conflicted", wanting to do the right thing and to give it a chance.

When one of the Option Method people asked "well, is it a negative or positive relationships?", it became abundantly clear to him that it definitely was not - and that it really wasn't even close.  He realized that he had to give up the hope of any cheese down that tunnel.

Yet he still took almost 9 months to finally declare that it wasn't going to work, while she went to counseling on her own, though she had left the marriage counseling process.

(The marriagge counselor has asked him one time, privately, why he always chose critical women.  When he thought about that, he came to the conclusion that he chose "strong" women - who, unless more enlightened, tended to be critical and very strong about it.)

It turned out that his wife had this litany of complaints and was even calling his sister-in-law to complain about how he was this and was that.  She was very creative in making up ways that he was wrong. 

Finally, in a session where she blasted him fully with some friends there, he finally got the point.

Perhaps now he is more enlightened and will make quicker decisions that are also better ones.  Maybe he'll even follow my advice from the conclusions I came to after studying relationships intensively...

Anyway, not to be flitty, but it is important to ask the question of whether one's "in order to" will really produce what is wanted - and then to be as smart as a rat...

"What Really Matters?" is the first question.
The second is to distinguish the difference: 
The Objective Of Life Is The End Goals - The "So That" Is Only A Means - To Balance Carefully!

The third question has to be questioning whether "this will get me what I want, really?"  And that takes getting some feedback from a knowledgeable objective person/thinker. 

It turns out that we tend toward being hopeless romantics and hopeful optimists - and very poor predictors.  We fail to invoke our own awareness to ask the critical questions about how things are going, so we keep on living Groundhog Day.

However, if we do what the life champion does, we will ask how we are doing and what can we do to get an even better result:  Living Life As A Life Champion - The Vital Skills And Practices To Live A Great Life!

Read also:  The Science Of Life - Reliably Predicting And Causing Your Future - We oughta get very good at this!