“Everything has been figured out, except how to live.” —Jean-Paul Sartre
In a recent Quora thread, users responded to the question: What life lessons are counter-intuitive or go against common sense or wisdom?
We trawled through the list looking for the best and most surprising advice. Many of these insights have been confirmed by social science.
Here are the takeaways.
1. If you strongly dislike a trait in someone else or are critical of something, you’re probably that way yourself. Freud called it projection, or “the attribution to others of one’s own rejected tendencies.” For example, people worried about their looks call others ugly, and folks that are self-conscious about salaries and status criticize others’ jobs. —Anonymous
2. Behavior is controlled more by your environment than your willpower. Situations tend to make people virtuous or nasty, focused or distracted. In other words, sell your TV and unsubscribe from Netflix if you can’t stop procrastinating. —Alan Rutledge
3. When you “sit with” a feeling, you can move beyond it. If you flee from having to experience an unpleasant emotion — feeling incompetent when first learning a skill, for example — then you end up being controlled by it. If you can’t handle feeling incompetent, it’s going to keep you from trying new things. —Alexis Bright
4. Being interesting comes from being interested. Being a fascinating, charismatic person is a result of being fascinated by the humans, history, and objects outside of yourself. —Jamie Beckland
5. Money can buy happiness. If you spend it on the right things: investing in a nicer bed will give you better rest at night and more energy in the day, while moving closer to your work and reducing your commute will directly improve your happiness levels, according to research. —Yishan Wong
6. Conflict can be healthy. Productive disagreement is a hallmark of successful teams (just ask Jeff Bezos). —Benjy Feen
7. Flaunt your weaknesses. If you’re open about the things you’re awful at, then it’s harder for jerks to attack your insecurities, plus you’ll seem more honest and trustworthy in the process. —Dean L Longmore
8. Laziness can be a great trait for a leader. Insanely hard workers have a tough time delegating, while the constructively lazy are happy to delegate tasks to the team, thus making their direct reports feel happier and more empowered. —Jeremy Liew
9. It’s not all about intelligence. Beyond IQ, successful people have grit and are conscientious. —Will Mitchell
10. Thinking about your death can be good for you. Reflecting on your mortality forces you to consider your life as a whole, plus the legacy you want to leave behind. This helps you to better distinguish between seeking meaning and pleasure. —Alice Rebekah Fraser
11. We suck at predicting what will make us happy. For example, getting a ridiculously high raise isn’t going to be sufficient for making you happy at work in the long term, since it’s just a “hygiene factor.” —Steve Upstill
12. Vulnerability can be a good thing. Sociology shows that vulnerability isn’t weakness; it can be a conduit to creativity and successful relationships. —Aimee Whitcroft
13. Some of the best opportunities come from distant acquaintances. Social science shows that job opportunities and dream dates come from the full extent of your network. —Heidi M. Petersen
14. “Getting out” your anger just makes you an angrier person. Rather than “venting” your frustrations, expressing your anger whenever you feel the urge just reinforces a pattern of aggression. —Brock Atkinson