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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 15-Feb-15

 


Sunday 15-February-15

What's the point of 'What's the point?'

Life can be very frustrating. You work hard and things somehow conspire to make every step more difficult. You help people and they seem ungrateful. You struggle and others constantly let you down. 'What's the point?' you say, throwing your arms in the air and rolling your eyes to heaven.

But what is the point of 'What's the point'? Why do we say it? What does it do for us?

'What's the point?' is also a rather difficult philosophical question. It does not have a good answer without delving into the purpose of life or the nature of humanity. Asking the question does not really seek an answer -- what it does is prevent an answer.

Another clue is in the gesture that commonly accompanies the phrase. Appealing to the gods, even metaphorically, assumes some other force at work, outside of your control. There seems nothing you can do to change the situation, let alone other people.

So what do you do? Most typically, you give up.

And there's the point. Saying 'What's the point?' lets you give up. The full rhetorical question is 'What's the point in my continuing when I am being constantly frustrated?' And the unspoken answer is 'None.'

In this way, 'What's the point?' gives you reason, justifying abandonment of your efforts. You can stop and still feel good. There is no need for shame. In fact you can feel a righteous indignation about the waste of your time. In this way you can transition from the pain of a difficult situation to the comfort of knowing you are morally superior. Perhaps if you continued your efforts or changed your approach you would have succeeded. But thinking about this would open the wound, so you do not.

So 'What's the point?' has a very useful point, after all. Yet it also carries dark dangers that can ruin your life.

This little question can become a rather too useful method of transforming pain into pleasure. It can quietly invade your life as it is steadily deployed more often and more quickly, until it becomes a reflexive habit. Yet while it excuses you from short-term discomfort, it does nothing for your long term prospects. In fact it can be very harmful to your future.

Life is hard. It needs you to overcome obstacles, not avoid them. If you give up, you will go nowhere.

If you want to succeed, yet you are not succeeding, you must change. And here, at this point of self-challenge, lies another danger, because 'What's the point?' can pop up and save itself by convincing yourself that even if you change, the result will be the same. So why bother, it asks.

To get away from this pernicious trap, you first have to get away from 'What's the point?' First notice yourself thinking it. Then realize what real harm it is doing to you. Get angry with it. Beat it up and throw it away. Determine never to let it back. Then replace it with other, more useful thoughts that help you overcome obstacles rather than avoid them. Like 'I can do it' or 'Let's try something different' or 'I'm not going to let them beat me'.

A secret of success is knowing what is stopping you from succeeding, and then getting past it. 'What's the point?' is just such a trap. If it is holding you back, you can now see it and stop it, forever.

 


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