My weakness is women. Anyone who knows me can likely confirm this. They are my light and my darkness. They have been the cause of some of my biggest ups and my most aggressive downs. (See binge eating and sleeping 16 hours a day).
I grew up believing that finding the right girl would solve my problems. I saw ‘Love Actually’ more than ten times. I subscribed to the Greek mythological belief that “humans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves.” If I could just find the other half my problems would go away, things would get simple.
Well, I got what I was looking for, I got a fairytale romance. But then what? Love actually only covered the Christmas courtship, what about the 60ish years of monogamy that followed? What did Hugh Grant have to say about that? So what did I do with my fairy tale romance? I panicked and if I panic in the perfect relationship, this must mean I am not built to be in a relationship. So I go looking for “fun”. I find “fun”. Next morning, I don’t feel very fun. I watch love actually in bed.
I want A, I get A, I’m unhappy.
I want B, I get B, I’m unhappy.
Now the real question, do I start to look for C or do I start to look at myself?
I think this happens to a lot of people. They accomplish a goal and they are immediately filled with a warm gooey feeling of success, like peeing in a wetsuit. But soon it starts to get cold, and smell weird.(I don’t remember eating asparagus)
I hear this all the time, people saying I need to get out of A. If only I had B. Once I learn to C. If they do actually catch A, they might end up chasing letters until finally, they run into the end of the alphabet. This has been termed by some as “the disease of more”.
When people get the bitter taste in their mouth following achievement they usually blame the goal.
“Ya getting this job was amazing, but I want that other job now.”
“This is just a stepping stone”.
“A bachelor’s degree is cool but I need my masters now”.
Where is the finish line?
“Success is often the first step toward disaster.”
– Pat Riley
This feeling has happened to me with dozens of goals I have set. Each time I end up progressing in life by external measures but moving backwards both emotionally and spiritually. If you continue down the path of external success and internal failure you will end up looking like one of those billionaire moguls, who are essentially real life Sith lords.
For a guy who runs a blog that recommends setting goals, you are really giving them a lot of shit!
I know, I know. Just keep listening.
We know there are basically two ways that we can set goals. (Read our previous article ) When you are intrinsically motivated, the goal you have set doesn’t really matter. It is more of a milestone along a path of fulfilment. Like a birthday in life, it’s fun to celebrate, but you aren’t living life for the purpose of birthdays.
An extrinsic goal, on the other hand, is supposed to bring something into your life. Whether that be candy, cash, or chicas. When you have set an extrinsic goal (earn X dollars), it might seem like it will be the answer. And the search for that answer might be all that is keeping you going. When you get to the end of the rainbow, you get an initial high. “I finally made X dollars, I am the greatest”. Soon you realise there is no pot of gold. You are not magically fulfilled. You now have two choices.
- Break down and cry.
- Assume that this rainbow is the wrong one, and start chasing a different one.
This is the same for all addiction cycles. You get a reward with a comedown, where the comedown is slightly bigger than the reward. This is why achieving a goal can be so dangerous. It starts that feedback loop. It gives you that high, a hit of the drug called ‘achievement’. If you become addicted to that chase, you are never going to be happy no matter how high you climb.
“You like the chase, and that’s all.”
– Summer Roberts
The chase can fool us into thinking we are moving, that we are making progress but remember, Wherever you go, there you are. Chasing external goals is the equivalent of spinning in circles as fast as you can while staying in one place. It feels pretty cool, but it will eventually make you sick.
Ok but I don’t see how setting good internal goals matters if I feel like shit and hate my life?
It is not just what type of goals we set, but the motivation and intention we set them with.Always examine your motivation and intentions when setting goals. Accept what you are, where you are and who you are and you will want to set goals purely to enjoy the places they take you.
Let me tell you a modern take on an old story.
I know a guy, let’s call him Luke. Luke was pretty normal, he liked ice cream and football, Luke was poor. He had a friend named Bud who was a rich politico, connected, travelled and rich. One day Luke texted Bud cause he was feeling lonely, Bud being a good guy, took him out for a luxurious night of food and drink. Luke was so overwhelmed and happy that he got a little too loose on the goose and passed out. As Bud was tucking his friend into bed he saw the unkept and downtrodden state of Luke’s apartment and felt great compassion for his sad friend, so he cut him a cheque for $1,000,000 and hid it in the inside pocket of Luke’s jacket so he would be surprised to find it later. He then taped a note to Luke’s forehead.
Luke woke up next day tucked into bed, he peeled the note of his head.
“Had to go, urgent political stuff, great to catch up. -Bud.”
When Luke read the note, groggy and confused, he was still riding the high of the previous night, but as he looked at his apartment, his situation in life started to set in. The night before was now just a fading dream. Within days, Luke was back into a depression. He let himself go, went deep into debt, put on weight, and lost all his friends. Bud reached out to Luke to follow up on his gift, but Luke was too embarrassed to answer, he didn’t want to be seen by his successful friend.
Many years later, Bud was walking down a street, when he saw his old friend. Luke was waiting in line at McDonalds, scruffy, overweight, bags under his eyes wearing the same jacket. Bud barely recognised Luke and was shocked at his condition. He asked Luke if he had ever checked his inside pocket. Luke pulled out the cheque and let out a soft sigh. He had been carrying the answer the whole time.
(Incase you missed it, the cheque is not representative of money, but of something else, I am not telling you to look for handouts from your friends)
Listen up guys and gals, you already have it. Every single thing you need to be happy you are clutching in your tiny, sweaty palms. (Unless you are holding an Oreo, then put that away first.)
Let’s tie this all together, into neat little steps.
- Accept that there is no goal that you can achieve that will make you any better or happier than you already are capable of.
- Let your current goals go.
- Realise you have everything you need to be happy
- Accept your life just as it is.
- Set new goals from a place of enough. From a place of compassion and wanting to share your gifts with the world.
- Accept that you will be no better off having achieved these goals. Or worse off for having missed them.
- Treat your goals like a flower, nurture and appreciate them, but know they might die (or get eaten by the neighbours dog). Just smile and plant new ones.
“How will you serve the world? What do they need that your talent can provide? That’s all you have to figure out.”
– Jim Carrey
Always examine the motivations for your goals and actions, don’t let the chase sneak back into your life. Beware of the high you get from reaching goals, don’t crave it.
You are not your successes, just as you are not your failures. Succeed from a place of enough, a place of satisfaction, a place of gratitude. Do not succeed from a place of more, a place of scarcity, a place of greed. I know there is no girl in the world who will make me happy (except maybe Emma Watson). I have to be happy as I am (even if the ancient greeks think that’s half a human), only then can I find someone to share my wholeness with.
The TL;DR version of this article is nicely summarised in this Sheryl Crow song.
“It’s not having what you want. It’s wanting what you’ve got.”