There’s No End-Game to Success

Focus on the journey, not the destination.  Joy is found not in finishing an activity, but in doing it.

Greg Anderson

It occurred to me recently that most of us talk about success, money and indeed even life as if there is some grand destination at the end that all of humanity is racing towards.

But… there isn’t.

When you finally start making a success of working at what you’re passionate about, you put your first million in the bank, you marry the love of your life and discover the cure for cancer, no one jumps out at you with a party hat and a noise maker yelling ‘CONGRATULATIONS!  You did!  You’re successful!’

But we all act like they do.  We all race towards the goal, thinking ‘Once I achieve that, life will be perfect.  I’ll be _______!’  Fill in the blank– Successful, Rich, Happy, Beautiful, Genius, Important, Powerful.

So when you start achieving these goals you’ve set out to achieve, you never really get that sense of accomplishment because you’re still looking for the finish line, and life didn’t just end when you ‘beat it’.  Kind of like beating a video game.  Life goes on once you’ve achieved these things, and it doesn’t have a big stamp on it that says ‘Done!’  It doesn’t feel like it, either.

Chasing that finish line contributes to feeling dissatisfied with life, no matter how much success or luxuries you enjoy.  I’m a pretty fortunate guy– I live in a very spacious apartment with the love of my life, it has a fireplace in it which at this very moment I’m sitting in front of enjoying a roaring fire, (Which is a huge deal for me, since I LOVE fireplaces.  And how many times have you ever heard of having a fireplace in a high-rise anyway?) the two of us have more than enough money to survive on and recently I’ve been able to focus entirely on my writing, which is my true passion in life.

I can truly say that I love my life.  And I’m not writing that to boast or let you know how great my life is but rather to tell you that it’s all perspective.  There’s a lot in my life that I could be unhappy about if I let myself be.  Here they are:

I’m currently unemployed, making no income of my own.  I don’t own a car and have to walk everywhere or take the bus, (Which takes about twice as long to take you anywhere.) my book has yet to find a publisher and the process is very slow, I’ve had issues with a member of my family recently, I live in an apartment and not a house, I live in the city when I would prefer to be farther out into the country and I don’t get to travel nearly as much as I would like.  I also still have school looming in front of me if I choose to go that route.

I don’t really think about the things above.  I used to obsess about them, as they were this list of things I didn’t have and wanted, and I spent all my time thinking about how I didn’t have them.  Then as soon as I got them I moved onto the next thing on the list and forgot about it.

My point in listing the negatives and the positives of my life is that anyone could put themselves in my shoes and decide whether or not I had it really well or if I had a terrible life.  Many people have what would be considered by many to be a better life than I do and yet are completely dissatisfied with it.

How many kids born into very wealthy, powerful and priveledged families are truly happy?  Just look at people like Paris Hilton, (An extreme example, but the point stands.) they tend to get into trouble and rebel simply because they have nothing left on that list to go after and have no idea how to be content with what they have.

So, kill your goals is what you’re saying, right?

No, definitely not.  I think goals are a fantastic way of getting you to where you want to be, but you’re probably confusing ‘goals’ with ‘idols’.  Goals are something you put on a list and strive towards, idols are something you worship and, in this case, wish you possessed.

I set goals every morning, but I am nonetheless very satisfied with my life.  What I used to do was idolize those goals and obsess over them, and that is very unhealthy.

But it’s difficult to set goals and try and achieve them when you’re trapped in this mind-set of idolization and possession.  Any goal you set tends to turn into this check-box you’re trying to tick on the checklist of life before you move onto the next one.

Practicing gratitude is the easiest and, quite frankly, the best way to get around this mind-set of having a finish-line you’re trying to get to.  Let me assure you that the only finish line in life is death, and that’s not something you want to be rushing towards.

There’s never a point where you will be truly defined as successful, for those who would give you such a moniker would be opposed by a hundred similar people who would just as soon strip you of it, no matter what you’ve accomplished.  The only definition that really matters is the one in your own mind.

And the same can be said about money or physical items.  There is no limit to the amount of money you have.  If you broke the $100,000 barrier you’d immediately be looking towards the $1,000,000 one.  Then the $10,000,000, the $100,000,000 and maybe even the one billion dollar barrier.  There is always more, and the only person who can say that enough is enough is you.  Not the media, not your friends, your family, not even your spouse.  Only you.

Be grateful for what you have now, and suddenly those goals you’re so desperately trying to snatch won’t seem to matter so much.  You might surprised at how once you’re happy with what you have, what you want tends to just float gently down towards you, with very little effort at all.

Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.

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