After two years of working as a manager at a video store, I’d finally had it. The pay was bad. The customers were rude. I felt trapped and knew I wanted more.
I vividly remembered a day where everything went wrong — a Murphy’s law kind of day. I’d gotten so upset I ended up breaking an empty DVD case in half.
Fortunately, right at the moment where I could no longer handle the gig, I got a new job.
I felt a sense of relief. The new job still wasn’t my dream job, but it wasn’t my old job either. It went well for a while until the same feelings crept in:
I want more.
I could do better.
Is this it?
I’ve noticed this cycle happen over and over again — with jobs, goals, relationships, everything.
I’d want something — or want out of something. I’d get it. Then, after what seemed like a very brief period of time, I want something else.
The “Once I Get X” Fallacy
What are you holding out hope for?
What do you want to come and save you?
Is it a job? A relationship? A new locale? The business that’ll help you gain freedom? Early retirement so you can live on a beach?
We all have that thing, don’t we? The “if only I had ______ I’d be happy” thing. My thing is to be a millionaire author and entrepreneur. It’s been my dream for a long time. I’m making progress toward it. And I believe it’ll happen sooner than later.
But then what? Will that be it? Will I finally stop chasing goals and rid myself of the feeling that I’m not doing enough? I doubt it. Why? Because even though I logically understand that a change in circumstances isn’t going to change me, I can’t help but peer at the carrot dangling in front of me. Is it human nature? I don’t know. Societal conditioning? Maybe.
Either way, shaking the feeling that you need something else to happen outside of you to finally feel good is a difficult challenge few people I know have ever conquered, but it’s a battle worth fighting.
So, how do you fight the good fight?
Cultivate the Feeling
You don’t want “the thing.” Nobody wants a million dollars, or a Ferrari, or a vacation home on a beach, or freedom, any outward trappings of success, or any circumstance really.
You want whatever feeling you think “the thing,” will bring you. I remember this and try to examine my own motivates.
Why do I want a million dollars? Truth be told — it’s a cool arbitrary amount of money to say you have…the “I made it” number. Why do I want to make it? Because I’m ambitious. Why am I ambitious? Because I feel like I need accomplishments to validate my worth. Why? Well, I was told I had the potential to be great and […]
When you dig into your motivations you can unearth some of the reasons behind the things you chase. Then, if you still feel the aim is worth it, you can pursue it while trying to cultivate the feeling right now. There are also times where — after exploration — you realize you’re chasing the wrong things for the wrong reason.
I also get to wake up every day and write. Without the million dollars, I already more or less have what I want…for now.
The desire pangs will always come back. You’ll always have to anchor yourself in gratitude when idealism tries to pull you into the clouds. You’ll always have to start over emotionally. And that’s okay.
Think of the feelings you want your circumstances to generate. Then, analyze your motives and think about how you can feel that feeling right now. Repeat until the end of time while making very little progress.
A Fight You Can’t Win
Self-improvement isn’t a game you can win. As much as I enjoy their work, people like Tony Robbins and Brendon Bouchard can’t be that well adjusted.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think there’s a point where you can permanently fix your life.
Not when the desire puppeteer pulls at your heartstrings.
Not when the invisible hand of fate nudges your life into an unanticipated direction.
I’m actually optimistic about people because of their ability to deal with tough lives. Life is tough, even though we’re materialistically much more well off than we were in the past. The emotional component is still there.
No matter how many books you read or seminars you attend, life will find a way to test you.
For me, things got better when I stopped trying to win. There’s no finish line. There’s no moment where I get everything I want and everything is perfect.
I’m fighting an uphill battle. If I’m even able to become ten percent more content that’d be a major improvement. I’m still going to irrationally chase after goals I don’t need to reach while trying to stay grounded at the same time because…that’s what humans do.
I’m a human and I’m flawed. You’re a human. You’re flawed.
Be flawed. You can improve your life without seeking the perfect state of being.
You usually change your life when you’re not trying to change anything major.
…when you’re not chasing after a job, but rather you’re just putting in work trying to learn.
…when you’re not looking for the perfect partner, but you’re focusing on being okay with yourself.
…or when you’re not trying really really hard to do ‘x’ but you’re just focusing on doing A-Z every day — in whatever capacity you can handle — with integrity, moderate yet persistent effort, and a calm sense that wherever you arrive will be okay.
Stop trying to win and you’ll win.
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