Six Reasons to Appreciate Life Right Now
These actions can remind you how lucky you are to be born today.
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I’m writing this from LAX. I was in town to record some podcasts. The conversations were a ton of fun. I’ll share them when they’re live.
Today, we’re covering:
What a desert bighorn taught me about life today.
The science of first-world problems.
Six graphs that might change your thinking.
Five actions to take to change your life right now.
Let’s roll …
On Sunday, I ran in the desert mountains behind my home. It was one of fall’s first cool mornings, and the smell of sage lingered in the dry air.
After a few miles, the open desert funneled into a canyon. That’s when my dog, a German Shorthaired Pointer named Stockton, came to a quick halt.
He paused and sniffed the air, then pivoted off the trail.
Stockton is a hunting dog. When he quickly moves off the trail, he’s usually chasing a jackrabbit or chipmunk. But he just stood off the trail, enraptured.
And there it was: The corpse of a young desert bighorn sheep. (I decided not to include the photo, but you can see it here.)
Desert bighorns are some of the coolest, toughest animals in existence. They have all sorts of wild adaptations to survive the desert:
Their body temperature can safely fluctuate a few degrees to survive the extreme heat and cold of the desert.
They have cloven hoofs that allow them to be some of the best climbers in the desert (their defense mechanism is to go into jagged cliffs that other animals can’t).
They can go months without visiting a water source. They can lose up to 30 percent of their body weight in water and survive. Humans pass out when we lose 4% of our body weight in water and die at a 10% loss.
Still, 50 percent of desert bighorn sheep die in their first year or two of life. It’s hard to say how this one died. My guess is coyotes or a fall.
It reminded me that nature, although beautiful, is also brutal.
Teddy Roosevelt put it this way:
“Death by violence, death by cold, death by starvation—these are the normal endings of the stately and beautiful creatures of the wilderness. The sentimentalists who prattle about the peaceful life of nature do not realize its utter mercilessness; … life is hard and cruel for all the lower creatures, and for man also in what the sentimentalists call a ‘state of nature.’”
The merciless state of nature is the same state humans lived in for all but the most recent sliver of time.
Our ancestors frequently faced exposure to the elements, freak weather, encounters with wildlife, accidents brought on by unforgiving terrain, and much more. They faced constant and deep hunger. They worked hard to get their food and had to kill it themselves.
They died far younger on average than we do—roughly half of people died as infants or children.
Today, we spend 93 percent of our time indoors and live at 72 degrees. We rarely encounter wildlife that poses a danger to us. We navigate paved terrain in padded shoes and plush automobiles (FFS, my truck has a heated steering wheel).
We’re rarely hungry for any more than a few hours at a time, and hyper-caloric food is available with the touch of a few buttons. We offload the death of the animals we eat to secretive slaughterhouses.
This is a good thing overall*. It’s the result of progress. But as we’ve progressed, we haven’t necessarily stepped back and taken stock.
It’s easy to forget how good we have it in the grand scheme of time and space.
The science of first-world problems
Consider the phenomenon of “prevalence-induced concept change.” Think of it as “problem creep.”
Harvard psychologists discovered the theory in 2018, and I wrote about it in my book, The Comfort Crisis.
Through a series of experiments, the researchers discovered that as humans experience fewer problems, we don’t become more satisfied. We lower our threshold for what we consider a problem.
We end up with the same number of troubles. But thanks to progress, our problems have become progressively more hollow.
So the psychologists got to the heart of why many people can find an issue in nearly any situation, no matter how good we can have it relative to the grand sweep of humanity. We are always moving the goalpost. There is, quite literally, a scientific basis for first-world problems.
The world has indeed gotten better.
Six Points of Progress
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