You are Insignificant (part 1)

You are insignificant. The world doesn't care about you. You are forgettable. Barely anything you do truly matters. These are good things.


When it comes to the universe at large, you are an insignificant speck riding on an insignificant speck that's orbiting an insignificant speck that is, itself, an insignificant speck in a galaxy, which, as large as it is, is an insignificant speck in a whole universe of similar insignificant specks. The odds of you doing something that affects even our galaxy, let alone the universe, are incalculably small. This is a good thing.


If we bring the scale down a bit to just our world, since that's where we all live, we're still extraordinarily insignificant. Since the beginning of humanity, it's estimated around 108 billion humans have been born, including the ~7.5 billion currently alive. You are one of them. One. Singular. An individual member of the species. The number of notable individuals within that number is extremely small. If we assumed that the percentage of notable people throughout history was inline with today, which I feel is unlikely, about 0.01% of those 108 billion humans were somewhat notable. And we're not talking "household name" here, we're talking "top 5,000 YouTuber". Based on the numbers, the odds of us being remembered tomorrow, let alone after our death, are minuscule. This is a good thing.


If we bring the scale down further to just our own lives, the same pattern holds. We are forgettable and insignificant. When considering strangers, such as the barista at Starbucks, or the cashier at the grocery store, we are one of dozens, probably hundreds of people they've seen that day. It's pretty unlikely you're unique enough to warrant them remembering you for 5 minutes, let alone the next day. You are one face in a sea of faces that they, like everyone, interact with to make it through the day. Just like you, they're much more concerned with how you view them than how they view you. You don't really matter to them. This is a good thing.


If we bring the scale down one more time to just our work lives, since that's likely where the majority of us feel the most heavily judged, we're still surprisingly insignificant. Think for a second about how many people are capable of doing your job as well as you do it. If you're anything like me, or the vast majority of people, millions of people could do your job as well as you can. If you died tomorrow your employer would put a different cog in the you-shaped hole without a second thought, and likely in rather short order. This is a good thing.


"Got it. I'm insignificant, don't matter to anyone except maybe my mom, and will have no impact on the world. Thanks for the pep talk!" Now hold on just a second there. You matter more than anyone else in the world to one person. That person is you. This is a good thing.


You are the only person you are forced to live with every day for your entire life. Given that fact, it's pretty convenient that you can control every decision you make. However, of the 35,000 decisions you make daily, nearly all of them are irrelevant to your own life, let alone the lives of others. Even of the decisions that changed your life in the slightest, how many really matter in 5 seconds? 5 minutes? 5 hours? 5 days? 5 weeks? 5 months? 5 years? Few to none. Nearly all of the decisions you make are irrelevant. This is a good thing.


We can't put significant effort into any substantial number of our daily decisions, be it 35,000 or 3,500. Decision fatigue, which affects us all, explains how your decision making abilities diminish as you continue to make them in your daily life. You need to save your mental energy for decisions that actually matter. The ones that impact your life months or years from now. Don't waste undue effort on small decisions, and do what you can to make other decisions as easy as possible. For example, don't stress over where to eat. Pick randomly from a list, stop at the first place you see, or make grilled cheese at home. It doesn't really matter in the long term. Save your mental energy for the crazy small fraction of those 35,000 decisions that actually matter.


This is where how little we and our decisions matter becomes a tremendous benefit. It's freeing to have the knowledge that, quite honestly, the individual things you do just don't really matter. You chose a restaurant with bad food? Who cares. You'll be eating again in 5 (non-sleeping) hours. You started a bad movie on Netflix? It'll be done in a few hours, or less. You painted your house and don't like the color? It's still a house, and you still live in it. You chose a poor design for your programming code at work? You still wrote code that does the job, and you learned better for next time.


Remember that very little of what you do actually matters. Remember that you are forgettable. Remember that you are insignificant.


Also, read part 2 of this article, because this part is definitely kind of a bummer by itself.