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Most people assume the relationship between effort and reward is one-to-one. We think that working twice as long will produce twice the results. That caring about a relationship twice as much will make everyone feels twice as loved.
However, most of the world does not exist on a linear curve. Linear relationships only exist for mindless, rote, repetitive tasks—driving a car, filling out reams of paperwork, cleaning the bathroom, etc. because they require no thought or ingenuity.
Diminishing returns means that the more you experience something, the less rewarding it becomes. The concept of diminishing returns applies to most experiences that are complex and novel, and even many of the mundane ones. They apply in cases like money, eating, sleeping, work productivity and even friendships.
All give back less the more you do them, the more you try, or the more you have. All operate on a diminishing returns curve.
Here, effort and reward have a negative correlation—that is, the more effort you put into doing something, the more you will fail to do it.
Effort and reward have a linear relationship when the action is mindless and simple. Effort and reward have a diminishing returns relationship when the action is complex and multivariate.
But when the action becomes purely psychological—an experience that exists solely within our own consciousness—the relationship between effort and reward becomes inverted.
These internal, psychological experiences exist on an inverted curve because they are both the cause and the effect of the same thing: our minds. When you desire happiness, your mind is simultaneously the thing that is desiring and the target of its own desires.
The goal is to take your mind and teach it to stop chasing its own tail. To teach it to achieve what it desires by giving up what it desires. To show it how the only way to reach the surface is to let itself sink.
By letting go, by giving up and by surrendering. Not out of weakness. But out of a respect that the world is beyond our grasp. By recognizing that we are fragile and limited and but temporary specks in the infinite reaches of time. You do it by relinquishing control, not because you feel powerless, but because you are powerful. Because you decide to let go of things that are beyond your control. You decide to accept that sometimes, people won’t like you, that often you will fail, that usually you have no clue what you’re doing.
"The harder we try with the conscious will to do something, the less we shall succeed. Proficiency and results come only to those who have learned the paradoxical art of doing and not doing, or combining relaxation with activity."
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