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The Rule of Two

As human beings we are ingrained to make certain types of choices. However, our choice often seems to make us unhappy even though we are sure we made the right decision. It’s not understanding the nature of choosing that causes unhappiness.

Our three basic choices:

More vs Less

If given the choice between more of a good thing or less of good thing, most people would choose more. If we asked fifty people whether they would rather receive $20 or $10. Most would choose $20. This choice doesn’t mean that people are greedy. It means that we’re inherently designed for choosing abundance over lack.

Sooner vs Later

If we asked those same people if they would rather have the $20 now or next month. Most would choose to have the $20 now. This choice doesn’t mean we can’t delay gratification. It means that if all things are equal, we prefer the certainty of now over some unknown future where we may not be around to receive the $20.

Better vs Worse

Finally, if we asked those people, if they would prefer to have the $20 in cash or as a cashier’s check. Most people would choose cash because cash is more convenient to spend and therefore subjectively better. This choice doesn’t mean that we all want things easier. It means we prefer choosing the options that improves our lives the most.

The Rule of Two

The rule of two is this: More, Sooner, Better. Pick Two.

The rule of two can be best illustrated using the examples of happiness, relationships and money.

More and Sooner

We can have more and we can have it sooner, but the quality suffers.

Having more money sooner can be done with debt. Debt is form of money. We can buy things on credit, refinance our homes and we can have money in a relatively short amount of time. However the quality of the money from debt isn’t has high as money from savings because debt requires repayment and accrues interest.

In relationships, the entire concept of social networks is built around more and sooner. We collect lots of “friends” on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, but the quality of those friendship don’t improve until we’ve spent time developing relationships with those people.

Happiness has a qualitative scale. Some things make us happier than others. Good relationships usually make people happier than a good lunch or a nice walk. How to have more happiness sooner is explained in the “power of now” philosophies which teaches about happiness through living in the present. For some, taking happiness in the day-to-day is equal in quality to the happiness from accomplishing a long-term goal like running a marathon or getting married. However, getting to that point where happiness in the now becomes all encompassing takes time and doesn’t happen right away.

More and Better

Most understand that more and better takes longer. Having lots of really good friends takes a great deal to time invested into building relationships.

Having more money and of a better quality of money (passive income vs earned income) takes time. It takes time to create systems where your money makes money when you’re not working.

Lasting happiness takes time to learn and to obtain. Sometimes we get great results from our lives but that happiness never lasts and it takes time before we learn the what, why and how of our happiness. It’s in learning about ourselves where we learn how to be more happy more often and in a way that permeates our lives. That learning takes time.

Better and Sooner

For INFPs, this is the choice we often take. We choose better and sooner, just less of it.

We focus our time and energy on a few close friends and any remaining effort is divided among those other people. We find something we like, such as a camera or a trip to an exotic country. We work really hard to earn the money, buy the camera or take the trip and then it’s gone again. We spend time on those activities that make us happy whether it’s reading, writing, video games, creating art or whatever makes us passionate, but then we get interrupted by going to work, doing dishes and the busy-ness of the day-to-day.

We have moments where we’re intensely happy, but those moments don’t seem to last.

There’s no right choice

It’s the nature of the choosing the causes unhappiness and not the choices themselves. We want life to allow us More, Better and Sooner so we do things like get rich quick schemes and fad diets and wonder why those things never work out. Our attempts to find a way around the Rule of Two lead to failure and more unhappiness.

However, none of the three choices in themselves are better or worse.

At first, more and sooner seems to be a bad choice. However, this isn’t always the case. I own a house. In order to own the house now instead of after saving the all the money upfront, I have a mortgage. So in order to have more and sooner, I choose to sacrifice better (taking on debt). For some this is unacceptable and they pay everything in cash including houses. More and sooner doesn’t reflect a poor choice. It’s just a choice like any other choice with consequences that are either acceptable or unacceptable.

More and better seems to be the best choice in all things. I thought I could have a better quality of life across more areas of my life if I expended more effort and time. However, this often lead to the I’ll-be-happy-after syndrome. I’ll be happy after I meet the love of my life. I’ll be happy after I get published. The path of more and better leads to higher self-esteem and self-worth from mastering skills and developing better habits. However, this doesn’t always translate to being happier.

Most of my life, I’ve lived in the choice of better and sooner. I concentrated all my focus on energy on developing a few friendships. However, people changed and we grew apart and I had to do it all over again. I concentrated single-mindedly on one thing giving up balance. When I was lonely, I concentrated on relationships without realizing that my job wasn’t making me happy. So then I would focus on career, work ridiculous hours and then wonder why I was getting sick more often. So then I’d focus on health and personal development and then my friends would wonder why I didn’t spend time with them anymore.

The right choice for you

All choices have consequences. In making the choice, we have to accept responsibility for the consequences.

For example, our car breaks down. We’ve been living paycheck to paycheck and we’ll be fired if you miss work again. We can choose to repair our car and pay by credit. We gain convenience (more) in having a car that let’s us get to work (sooner) by worsening our financial situation. Or we can choose to ride the bus (less convenience) to get us to work until we save enough enough money.

Whichever choice is better depends on our values. Each choice has consequences. If we pay by credit card, we accrue interest. If we’re living paycheck to paycheck, our credit rating will suffer if we miss payments. If we choose to ride the bus, our work life and our social life will have to be arranged around bus schedules. The acceptability of those consequences is different for each person.

The Rule of Two give us three choices: more/sooner, more/better or sooner/better. In all areas of our life, those three choices show up in different ways from finding a job to figuring out what we want for dinner. It’s in figuring out which choice best fits with each area and accepting the consequences from that choice that leads to happiness.

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4 Responses to “The Rule of Two”

  1. Abhijeet Kulkarni

    Oct 25, 2010

    10:37 pm

    Hi , i agree that .. choices has its own consequences..advantages & disadvantages…as an INFP most of the time our impulses determine our choices…and our uncontrollable mind make us to do what it wants …though from heart we get the signal we are making wrong choice…..every time you make the choice & you have this inner dont know what your choice is hidden in it ….will this work out in nice way or not….you have doubts …you are little frightened..& thats why you seek the advise that if you go wrong there should be some one to blaim on…
    As it is said that ..” ONENESS IS HAPPINES…When we select any choice we should be consious we should listen to our heart not impulse..because many time impulse leads us to wrong choice…then after thoughtful choice (of course when imidiate decisions are needed there you find very little chancefor thinking ..& where your impulses really rule) So
    stick to that what ever choice you have made..not forcefully ..that….what people might think if i keep on changing the decision.. don’t worry but be ready for consequences & positively accept that ……


  2. Liam

    Feb 7, 2011

    7:33 pm

    What an incredibly insightful post. It is almost uncanny how accurately your portrayal of yourself in your early 20s mirrors how I feel now, perhaps due in no small part to the fact that I am actually 22 (23 in June). I also don’t have a girlfriend, nor have I ever. I would say that it isn’t a concern, but that’s not true, I just sweep it under the carpet because other things just seem more pressing. Except with each passing year I become more and more concerned but seem to do equally little, though with sporadic and transient bursts of effort.

    I am also somewhat disillusioned regarding the whole friendship deal, because it took some very attentive opportunism to get the friends I did, though complaining about the time invested seems a little precious as it was all enjoyable. After growing apart from most of them I can’t help but feel short-changed despite the fact that at least half of it is my fault in the first place.

    As regards this ‘Rule of Two’ I am unsure what analytical wizardry or enlightening epiphany prompted you to share it but it seems irrefutable from where I’m standing. There is surely a lot to meditate on here. I just better make sure that’s not all I do with it because that would just defeat the object now wouldn’t it?


  3. MelKay

    Aug 29, 2016

    2:44 pm

    This is something that I can really relate to. I enjoy sewing and designing my own clothing. It’s like my form of “art” and it gives me a feeling of intense satisfaction and happiness. I forget to eat or drink and work constantly on it. I get aggravated if my toddler interrupts me or if I feel pressured to do housework. So, life gets in the way, and the projects get put aside. Sometimes (like currently) I’ll go almost a whole month without working on anything. The toddler will be content. The dishes will be consistently clean. For a short while I will feel content in this. I’ll revel in the joy of connecting with my toddler and spending quality time with her. The house will be tidy consistently, and my ISFJ husband will be quite happy. However, I soon plummet and become depressed and miserable. The every day, mundane-ness begins to wear on me. Then a revolt occurs. I’ll procrastinate doing the dishes as long as possible. I’ll sit and ruminate on things for longer than I’d like to admit. I’ll forget to give my toddler my undivided attention, only tending to her immediate needs without really spending time with her. I even begin to think all my past sewing projects are probably crap and no ones appreciates them. They probably all think I look ridiculous. Then I feel discouraged to start back up on a project. So, I stay “stuck” for a while. It feels like I have to choose between “happiness” and “well-functioning home”. Most people look at this problem and say “I know what you need to do! You just need to schedule a little time to work on your project each day”. Thanks, but no. I’ve tried that multiple times per advice from people like my mother (an ISTJ). My brain simply does not work that way. I can’t “schedule” time to create. I create spontaneously. I get this spark of an idea and then I am compelled to create it right away lest the idea be forever lost. Creating on command is impossible for me to do. I think this ties into the “Better and Sooner” choice. I focus my time and efforts on what seems to be “better” and what meets my values “sooner”. Making my husband and child happy are incredibly important to me….but so is cultivating “me time” and my love for creating. As a stay-at-home mom the dishes are always going to be there and my toddler always need my attention. It seems impossible to balance my two “needs”. If I spend hours lost in my projects and the dishes pile up and my toddler gets more and more demanding, then the “better” choice of the moment to meet my values “sooner” is to tend to my household. So I set aside my projects. I focus wholly on my household. Then I get disgruntled after while, then the “better” choice changes to working on projects to meet my value “sooner” of desperately needing space and time to myself. Its a never ending, frustrating experience for me. I still do not know how to fix this, or if it can be “fixed”.


  4. Francesco D'Arcangeli

    Nov 10, 2016

    2:18 am

    What you write is deep and illuminating and well written, pragmatic enough not to seem too “dreamy” and optimist (yeah!) enough not to seem gloom.
    I was tested INFP back in 2006 but in 2013 I started doubting my type – long story short, I went through a lot of them until I realised I was right all along.
    This article is simply amazing. Thank You.


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