Oliver Burkeman Quotes
Books by Oliver Burkeman
Best 56 Quotes by Oliver Burkeman – Page 1 of 2
Four Thousand Weeks Quotes
“An alternative, Shinzen Young explains, is to pay more attention to every moment, however mundane: to find novelty not by doing radically different things but by plunging more deeply into the life you already have.
Experience life with twice the usual intensity, and 'your experience of life would be twice as full as it currently is' — and any period of life would be remembered as having lasted twice as long.”
“As I make hundreds of small choices throughout the day, I’m building a life — but at one and the same time, I’m closing off the possibility of countless others, forever.
The original Latin word for 'decide', 'decidere', means 'to cut off', as in slicing away alternatives; it’s a close cousin of words like 'homicide' and 'suicide'.
Any finite life — even the best one you could possibly imagine — is therefore a matter of ceaselessly waving goodbye to possibility.”
“Choose curiosity (wondering what might happen next) over worry (hoping that a certain specific thing will happen next, and fearing it might not) whenever you can.”
“Convenience culture seduces us into imagining that we might find room for everything important by eliminating only life’s tedious tasks. But it’s a lie.
You have to choose a few things, sacrifice everything else, and deal with the inevitable sense of loss that results.”
“Cosmic insignificance therapy is an invitation to face the truth about your irrelevance in the grand scheme of things. To embrace it, to whatever extent you can.
Isn’t it hilarious, in hindsight, that you ever imagined things might be otherwise? Truly doing justice to the astonishing gift of a few thousand weeks isn’t a matter of resolving to 'do something remarkable' with them.
In fact, it entails precisely the opposite: refusing to hold them to an abstract and overdemanding standard of remarkableness, against which they can only ever be found wanting, and taking them instead on their own terms, dropping back down from godlike fantasies of cosmic significance into the experience of life as it concretely, finitely — and often enough, marvelously — really is.”
“In an age of instrumentalization, the hobbyist is a subversive: he insists that some things are worth doing for themselves alone, despite offering no payoffs in terms of productivity or profit.
The derision we heap upon the avid stamp collector or train spotter might really be a kind of defense mechanism, to spare us from confronting the possibility that they’re truly happy in a way that the rest of us — pursuing our telic lives, ceaselessly in search of future fulfillment — are not.
This also helps explain why it’s far less embarrassing (indeed, positively fashionable) to have a 'side hustle', a hobbylike activity explicitly pursued with profit in mind.”
“In what ways have you yet to accept the fact that you are who you are, not the person you think you ought to be?”
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“It’s alarming to face the prospect that you might never truly feel as though you know what you’re doing, in work, marriage, parenting, or anything else.
But it’s liberating, too, because it removes a central reason for feeling self-conscious or inhibited about your performance in those domains in the present moment: if the feeling of total authority is never going to arrive, you might as well not wait any longer to give such activities your all — to put bold plans into practice, to stop erring on the side of caution.
It is even more liberating to reflect that everyone else is in the same boat, whether they’re aware of it or not.”
“Mortality makes it impossible to ignore the absurdity of living solely for the future.”
“Once you no longer need to convince yourself that the world isn’t filled with uncertainty and tragedy, you’re free to focus on doing what you can to help. And once you no longer need to convince yourself that you’ll do everything that needs doing, you’re free to focus on doing a few things that count.”
“One can waste years this way, systematically postponing precisely the things one cares about the most.”
“Our lives, thanks to their finitude, are inevitably full of activities that we’re doing for the very last time. Just as there will be a final occasion on which I pick up my son — a thought that appalls me, but one that’s hard to deny, since I surely won’t be doing it when he’s thirty — there will be a last time that you visit your childhood home, or swim in the ocean, or make love, or have a deep conversation with a certain close friend.
Yet usually there’ll be no way to know, in the moment itself, that you’re doing it for the last time. Harris’s point is that we should therefore try to treat every such experience with the reverence we’d show if it were the final instance of it.
And indeed there’s a sense in which every moment of life is a 'last time'. It arrives; you’ll never get it again — and once it’s passed, your remaining supply of moments will be one smaller than before.
To treat all these moments solely as stepping-stones to some future moment is to demonstrate a level of obliviousness to our real situation that would be jaw-dropping if it weren’t for the fact that we all do it, all the time.”
“Productivity is a trap. Becoming more efficient just makes you more rushed, and trying to clear the decks simply makes them fill up again faster.
Nobody in the history of humanity has ever achieved 'work-life balance', whatever that might be, and you certainly won’t get there by copying the 'six things successful people do before 7:00 a.m.'.
The day will never arrive when you finally have everything under control — when the flood of emails has been contained; when your to-do lists have stopped getting longer; when you’re meeting all your obligations at work and in your home life; when nobody’s angry with you for missing a deadline or dropping the ball; and when the fully optimized person you’ve become can turn, at long last, to the things life is really supposed to be about.
Let’s start by admitting defeat: none of this is ever going to happen. But you know what? That’s excellent news.”
“Rendering yourself more efficient — either by implementing various productivity techniques or by driving yourself harder — won’t generally result in the feeling of having ‘enough time’, because, all else being equal, the demands will increase to offset any benefits.
Far from getting things done, you’ll be creating new things to do.”
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“The noblest of human goals wasn’t to become godlike, but to be wholeheartedly human instead.”
“The problem with trying to make time for everything that feels important — or just for enough of what feels important — is that you definitely never will. The reason isn’t that you haven’t yet discovered the right time management tricks or supplied sufficient effort, or that you need to start getting up earlier, or that you’re generally useless. It’s that the underlying assumption is unwarranted: there’s no reason to believe you’ll ever feel ‘on top of things’, or make time for everything that matters, simply by getting more done.”
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“Our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we must be accountable for who we become.”
“The real measure of any time management technique is whether or not it helps you neglect the right things.”
“The real problem isn’t planning. It’s that we take our plans to be something they aren’t. What we forget, or can’t bear to confront, is that, in the words of the American meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein, 'a plan is just a thought'.
We treat our plans as though they are a lasso, thrown from the present around the future, in order to bring it under our command. But all a plan is — all it could ever possibly be — is a present-moment statement of intent.
It’s an expression of your current thoughts about how you’d ideally like to deploy your modest influence over the future. The future, of course, is under no obligation to comply.”
“The world is bursting with wonder, and yet it’s the rare productivity guru who seems to have considered the possibility that the ultimate point of all our frenetic doing might be to experience more of that wonder.”
“There is a very down-to-earth kind of liberation in grasping that there are certain truths about being a limited human from which you’ll never be liberated.
You don’t get to dictate the course of events. And the paradoxical reward for accepting reality’s constraints is that they no longer feel so constraining.”
“There is an alternative: the unfashionable but powerful notion of letting time use you, approaching life not as an opportunity to implement your predetermined plans for success but as a matter of responding to the needs of your place and your moment in history.”
“This isn’t a phenomenon confined to megalomaniacs or pathological narcissists, but something much more fundamental to being human: it’s the understandable tendency to judge everything from the perspective you occupy, so that the few thousand weeks for which you happen to be around inevitably come to feel like the linchpin of history, to which all prior time was always leading up.
These self-centered judgments are part of what psychologists call the 'egocentricity bias', and they make good sense from an evolutionary standpoint. If you had a more realistic sense of your own sheer irrelevance, considered on the timescale of the universe, you’d probably be less motivated to struggle to survive, and thereby to propagate your genes.”
“We’ve been granted the mental capacities to make almost infinitely ambitious plans, yet practically no time at all to put them into action.”
“What you pay attention to will define, for you, what reality is.”
“Why assume that an infinite supply of time is the default, and mortality the outrageous violation? Or to put it another way, why treat four thousand weeks as a very small number, because it’s so tiny compared with infinity, rather than treating it as a huge number, because it’s so many more weeks than if you had never been born?
Surely only somebody who’d failed to notice how remarkable it is that anything is, in the first place, would take their own being as such a given — as if it were something they had every right to have conferred upon them, and never to have taken away.
So maybe it’s not that you’ve been cheated out of an unlimited supply of time; maybe it’s almost incomprehensibly miraculous to have been granted any time at all.”
“You can’t know that things will turn out all right. The struggle for certainty is an intrinsically hopeless one — which means you have permission to stop engaging in it.”
“You have to accept that there will always be too much to do; that you can’t avoid tough choices or make the world run at your preferred speed; that no experience, least of all close relationships with other human beings, can ever be guaranteed in advance to turn out painlessly and well — and that from a cosmic viewpoint, when it’s all over, it won’t have counted for very much anyway.”
The Antidote Quotes
“A person who has resolved to ‘think positive’ must constantly scan his or her mind for negative thoughts – there’s no other way that the mind could ever gauge its success at the operation – yet that scanning will draw attention to the presence of negative thoughts.”
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“All these counterproductive ways of thinking about failure manifest themselves most acutely in the phenomenon of perfectionism. This is one of those traits that many people seem secretly, or not so secretly, proud to possess, since it hardly seems like a character flaw – yet perfectionism, at bottom, is a fear-driven striving to avoid the experience of failure at all costs.
At its extremes, it is an exhausting and permanently stressful way to live. There is a greater correlation between perfectionism and suicide, research suggests, than between feelings of hopelessness and suicide.”
“Ask yourself whether you are happy, observed the philosopher John Stuart Mill, and you cease to be so.
At best, it would appear, happiness can only be glimpsed out of the corner of an eye, not stared at directly.”
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“If you want to improve your life, you’ll need to get off your rear end and kick your own butt.”