Recently, I have realized that all the mistakes I’ve made in the past, and is still making, have been caused by a single type of error: mistaking expedience for desire, for a call to action.

When I am looking to make a purchase, say a toaster, I look for a “good deal”. The toaster can’t have a significant number of bad reviews. The price can’t be too low, such that the toaster is bound to break down in a month; but it also can’t be too expensive, such that the purchase becomes exorbitant. It should have many features: a timer, different modes, bagel compatibility; but it’s okay if it’s missing a few as long as the price is lower. Might seem reasonable to try and find a “good deal” like this, but if one thought it through, one would find that it’s a recipe for mediocrity.

You see, even if you found a “good” toaster, it’s only “good” in the present situation, in the narrow context of finding a reasonable tool for making decent toast. You wouldn’t be looking at the big picture, at the long term story. You’re only considering what is the best possible option with your current capabilities, and not considering the fact that your capabilities are constantly growing, as well as the fact that you can exert conscious effort to direct how you grow. You’re not thinking strategically.

What you should do instead is to find the best toaster. Not the best you can afford, the best. And then just go and get it, even if it’s outside of your current capabilities. If you can’t afford a $1000 toaster, maybe do a few weeks of Uber, or ask your parents for money, or find a new job that pays better. (Don’t actually do this for a toaster of course) Pursue the best outcome possible, not the best outcome available to you at the moment. Don’t let the rapid fluctuations in your current situation influence your long term destination. Be steadfast. Never settle for mediocrity.

And that was only half of the story. Rather than feeling the need for a toaster, and then going out there to find a “good deal”, too often I do the reverse: I stumble upon a “good deal”, and then find myself believing I wanted a toaster. You see this toaster that feels like a once-in-a-long-while deal, with all the features and a reasonable price tag, and you start thinking you have to buy it. Damn those marketing folks, they know their psychology well. What one must keep in mind is that whether a toaster is a good deal or not is irrelevant to whether you actually need a toaster, whether you actually want toast. Don’t fall into their trap. Don’t mistake expedience for desire. Look into yourself, and really be honest about what you want and what you don’t.

I did look into myself, look deep into the abyss. And you know what I found?

I don’t want toast.

(Well I actually do like toast, and I did buy a toaster. But you know what I mean.)