A situation lately made me realise not everyone gets happier or more fulfilled when achieving their goals.
Driving along in beautiful sunshine and light traffic earlier this week the car behind caught my attention. It was small, brand new and the kind often used for rentals.
What stood out was the obvious anger and frustration of the front seat passengers, despite the fantastic weather and relaxed vibe of where we live. It reminded me of myself in previous times when, despite work achievements and a fine income, I was miserable, angry and hard to get along with.
Here are some observations on the interaction between achievement and fulfilment which might help you tread a happy path to your success and avoid unnecessary struggles.
Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.
Much like religion is no guarantee of enlightenment, achievement is no guarantee of fulfilment. We often see high profile people self-destructing as the rewards of their success no longer compensate for their pressures and use of time. But much more frequently, it’s you and me, our family, friends and colleagues that get stuck in frustration or a rut and end up angry, depressed or both.
Fulfilment is the achievement of something that’s desired. Through a quagmire of assumptions, expectations, social pressures and even habits, we set ourselves our goals. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with wither setting goals or achieving them.
No, what we’re looking at here is choosing misguided goals because of some external steering factor, although they are incompatible with our inner nature or something we’ve decide to do for the greater good.
To be fulfilling we take a lesson from Ray Dalio’s principles and look at our nature. This takes self-awareness and thought. When are we happy, with whom, doing what, and where? Goals that have you globe-hopping if you’re a home bird will lose their shine quickly. Similarly, if the job you are working hard at is frustrating or antagonistic then raise a mental question mark and see if you’re in the wrong industry.
A great warning sign that’s easy to spot is when you splurge on unneeded expensive things, putting pressure on your finances. Often this is a sign of someone trying to buy happiness and persuade themselves it’s working.
True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future
Newspapers and magazines are packed with subliminal messages suggesting successful people do this, go there and own that. We have social pressure too.
The classic ‘in keeping’ term that puts pressure on us to dress the part, drive the right car. There’s peer pressure, there’s the education and programming by some parents to ‘succeed’ in whatever way the parents define it. And finally, there’s habit. After a few years, doing more of the same is easy with the brain on autopilot.
For some people work is truly a fulfilling pastime. There are some wealthy business owners with millions in the bank who choose to keep running their business nonetheless. Similarly, some people refocus their pursuits when making money to live isn’t a factor any more.
There are no generic rights and wrongs because what’s right for one person may be wrong for another.
The key is to get in touch with who you are. What does your instinct say about how you spend your time? Trust gut reactions.
Value your time and peace of mind. D develop an awareness of how you feel about how you spend your time.
Most worthwhile achievements involve some stamina and compromise, and that may mean choosing non-ideal short-term goals for some greater goal, like paying back the mortgage or having children.
But choose wisely and if you find yourself about to spend half a month’s salary on walnut-veneered home bar or a new handbag in the latest handle-length, ask yourself why and look ahead to a few months’ time when the glory has worn off.
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