Voluntary Hardship - The Voluntary Hardship Series S15E2

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This is a throwback to the early days of the podcast. Matt and Scott discuss the concept of voluntary hardship: what is it and how does it refine us?

Life will undoubtedly present difficulties. This is involuntary hardship. Choosing to go through something difficult, however, seems to provide benefits.

Essentially, this is delayed gratification: do something hard now to delay the benefit to a future you. Working, working out, saving & investing money, growing food: these all require work now for future benefits.

Think about what provides you value and what does not? If you’re doing things that deprive you of value, reduce or eliminate these activities.

One useful framework is using the concepts of urgent & important to create 4 categories of activities. Important activities provide value. Urgent things need to be completed soon.

  • Not urgent, not important: provide no value-->reduce or eliminate
  • Urgent, not important: these tend to take up lots of our time-->reduce the time these take up
  • Not urgent, important: the hardest category to protect; find ways to spend more time doing these
  • Urgent & important: worthy of your time, but don’t ignore the important things that are not urgent

As you can see, the important things that are not urgent are the hardest to get done. There is little to no pressure.

Work seems to be something people have to do. It provides a creative outlet and helps prevent us from spending too much time with unimportant, nonurgent tasks (vices).

You can also appreciate the beauty and good of human work. A well-cooked steak, good cheese, a beautiful painting or building. These required the dedication of the craftsman in pursuit of excellent, the everyday work on these skills. The fruits are sweet, though they require much work to come to fruition.

Much modern work can be unsatisfactory. Some time spent on simple, hard things can be refining. Squatting, splitting wood, growing food: simple, hard, effective.

Voluntary hardship goes against the grain. You have to pursue the important, nonurgent things because you value them and have the discipline to continue this work.

Finally, this isn’t simply work for work’s sake or white knuckling discipline, though a bit of that may be necessary. It’s about looking toward the future and cultivating a life spent doing more things that provide value, not pleasure in the here and now.

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