Do you want to be active, productive, and social? Of course you want to but you can’t! You can’t have all of them. I wrote this blogpost to show that sometimes you have to choose between the things you want to focus on. And if you focus on one thing, you likely have to let go of others. However, sometimes I feel that people assume that we should have it all. I think we are judging people on their ignorance quite often. For example we have the Fitgirl, who doesn’t understand how you can eat a hamburger, when you just want to grab a quick bite because you have a deadline coming up. Your teacher, who doesn’t understand why don’t get straight A’s, when you just hang out with friends because they make you happy. We all have things that we are dedicated to but unfortunately the result of that is that we have to let go of other things. To show you that is the case I used two years of my Lifelog data and made a web of the factors of my life (figure 1). The lines that are drawn between the factors are all significant correlations. Green lines are positive correlations, this means that the more I do from something I also do the more from the other thing. Red lines are negative correlations, this means the more I do from one thing, the less I f do from the other thing. The thicker the line, the stronger the relation is. The thin lines are weak correlations, the medium lines have a moderate strength, while the thick lines represent moderate to strong correlations.
The many weak correlations
As you look at the web it is instantly visible how connected these aspects in my life are. Almost every aspect has a relation with every other aspect. When you do something of one thing a lot, the other things get instantly affected by it. For example, when I have a social day; I am happy, often more active, become less lonely, less stressed, feel a little healthier but am often less productive. However, I often play football/squash games with friends. It could be that I am happy just because I like to play a football game and not necessarily because of being social that day. This would mean that physical activity is the moderator between my happiness and social life. However, the correlation between happiness and my social life is stronger thus I would guess that I kind of like my friends :). This shows that it is very hard to make conclusions on just this data, more thorough analysis would be make things more clear. Nonetheless, this very complex web shows clearly that changing (little) things in my life can have a huge impact on many other things in my life. For example, if suddenly I would become very ill (unhealthy), I won’t just feel ill; I probably would become less social, lonelier, more stressed, and less happy. But would it be the illness itself that would make me unhappy? The stress? Or the loneliness? That’s hard to determine but interesting indeed.
The absence of strong correlations
I have lot of significant correlations in my life. Nonetheless, there aren’t that many strong correlations, my highest score is a 0,72. A correlation strength of 1 would mean that if one thing happens is it (almost) guaranteed that the other thing also happens (but we’ll never know for sure). For example, when I have a stressed day I am often unhappy that day. But because my correlation strength is 0,72 (and not 1) this means that this is not always the case. Sometimes, I can be happy and stressed at once! What’s to learn about these correlations is that the (many) weak correlations show that things in life aren’t that fixed. Things can change and you are still in control. You are the boss of your life and compensate, balance, and change things until you found your perfect fit.
We are expected to have friends, to be physically active, and to be productive. But this piece of data showed that you can’t have it all. If you focus on certain aspects in your life, you likely have to let go of the others. Letting things go is often hard for us to do. Accepting that your social network will decline because you want to pursue a career is not an easy step for example. Nonetheless, dilemmas like these are huge and we are dealing with them every day. Often, we just make gut-decisions concerning these issues and see the result of it later on. I think it is a pretty big issue to make such life-choices on just gut-decisions. It will be wise to use data and review our (past) life decisions once in a while to see what the impact was of our life-choices. With knowledge of this data we might make some better, more educated choices in the future.