Give Up. You’re Never Going to Arrive
A few nights ago, I was mentoring a younger version of myself. He’s about 15 years younger than me, and driven, and wanting to make a name for himself in the world. When he started at the company where we work, he set a career goal for himself, a goal to reach a specific level. A while back, he reached that goal and then he didn’t know what to aim for next.
What he discovered, what I discovered, what we all discover, is that reaching goals is always dissatisfying, particularly if we think we’re going to finally feel a certain way by “arriving.” The reality is that when you arrive at the goal, you’ve brought yourself with you. You get there, but you didn’t escape from yourself. The reality is that there isn’t a fix for how you feel. Either you feel content now, or sad now, or angry now, or however you feel now. You can’t even change how you feel now, let alone at some point in an imaginary future.
So what we all come to eventually—what we all realize—is that salvation can only occur here and now, in whatever we’re doing. Sure, planning happens. Sure, goals are set. Sure, hard work occurs. However, quality of life is only achievable right now, in what’s happening. And that’s only through the depth of engagement with what’s right in front of us. That might be writing an emotionally challenging email to your son (which I just did). That might be writing a candid email to your manager (which I also just did). That might be fully feeling the grief that’s bubbling up, or talking with your spouse about that issue that you’ve been avoiding. Engaging fully might be starting on your taxes, or heeding tiredness and going to bed.
What I wanted to convey to this friend at work was that the sooner you realize that you’re never actually going to get anywhere—the sooner you give up—the sooner you get to actually fully live your life. And at the end of life, or even at the end of the week, what’s going stand out as being important is whether you dived fully in and played the game all-out, and not whether you achieved any particular goals.
And, paradoxically, the less you try and the more you engage, the more rapidly and thoroughly those goals will be attained, but only as a side effect.