“What is this all about?” was the question my friend yelled out after we talked about the trials of trying to excel in our careers, the things we were accumulating, the constant push for more, and how much stress it was adding.
“At one end they tell us to be content with what we have, and the other they tell us to reach for our dreams and go for more, to have lofty aspirations. Sometimes I’m so confused and wonder if this is it….and why i’m even doing it?”
The look on her face stayed with me for many days because I have mulled over that question before and I have wondered if we are really living life as it is meant to be, or chasing an unattainable image that people – even well meaning people – have planted in our heads.
Analyzing It All
I mulled over the following questions:
- Are we products of a system of artificial losers and winners?
- Is the system breeding artificial destinies and purposes?
- Is this system creating the complete opposite – discontentment and constant dissatisfaction?
- Are we really living life as it’s supposed to be?
- Are we losing out on the true meaning of life?
Artificial Losers and Winners
From the first day we set foot in school to the next 16 years, we are graded and indirectly compared one against the other. I’m not here to talk about the negatives or positives of the grading system, but whether we consciously process it or not we are creating a system of winners (high achievers) or losers. Some cultures are so bad that people define their contribution to their family’s value from their grades.
Fast forward, a certain mindset is fixed and the need to always win and score high in life is connected to personal identity, affirmation, and value.
Artificial Destinies and Purposes
Religious institutions, media, and inspirational/motivational coaches all shout the same things at us, “go out there and achieve great things,” “don’t dare be mediocre,” “you must be a generational changer,” “don’t dare leave this world without making a mark,” “If you haven’t changed your generation or lived your purpose you have wasted your life.”
Sounds ra ra and great except it always feels like all the destinies and goals are big and great things, connected with fame, renown and bigger than life. I can’t tell you the number of people I have met with sad faces and confused expressions looking for their destiny or purpose and growing increasingly dissatisfied and discontent when what they love to do is small and “not so life changing,” if they even know what it is. Many times it is not so ra ra.
In the still silence, I, and i’m sure many ask, “who defines what is great?” and “why are we striving for all this greatness?” Is it for our self gratification or for others to affirm us? Are we looking for satisfaction, happiness, and contentment outside ourselves?
Another thing is why is simply raising a family or being a steady and loyal father, mother, friend and neighbor not enough? Why is destiny always implied as something bigger than ourselves?
Could we be in a maze chasing artificial destinies and goals?
Opposite – discontentment and constant dissatisfaction
Strangely, as we push for more, and are told to do more and not settle, we are a generation battling with rising depression and anxiety. Here.
Let’s ponder this together. If you are told that to be useful and not have spent your life in vain you have to push for more and more, it only makes sense that at some point what you will be hearing is that you are simply not enough. Or, if the quality of your output is dependent on continual increase, at some point your sense of self will be constantly challenged and undermined…and not in a good way. Something has to give.
Sadly, we have heard of many successful people, high achievers – “the ideals”- ending up self destructing through drugs and alcohol, with some ultimately killing themselves. Afterwards, there are always people saying, “but they had everything.”
Yes, they had what we thought was everything. Why wasn’t it enough?
Living life as it’s supposed to be?
So now we are back to the question my friend was really asking. Basically it’s the age old question that is framed in different ways: What is the meaning of life? Sure I am making more money, building that thriving business, getting more clients everyday, increasing my net worth, cementing a strong rolodex, writing many books, creating many movies – basically doing the “right things” – but all for what?
Not sure about you but that tells me something is not enough…still. So, what is enough?
Are we losing out on the true meaning of life?
Maybe we are missing what matters after all. I will share a story.
There was once a simple and poor man who lived in a small village in Greece. He was known in the village as a great fisherman. Everyday he would go to the sea to catch fresh fish, and upon his return would invite family and friends and everyone would eat his catch, drink wine, and have a great time together.
One day a visitor from NY came to his village and met with him. He praised the fisherman for his talent and wanted to partner with him. With his connections and business acumen he promised to make him a very wealthy shipping magnate. The Greek asked him why he should become that. The New Yorker responded, “that with his new wealth he would lack for nothing, and without care, enjoy his friends and family.”
The man looked at him and said, “But I am doing that now.”
Let us be careful what we listen to and what people want us to change into. Being more and doing more can be accomplished in the simple things. Many times contentment flourishes in simplicity and relationships.
Nothing is wrong with ambition but motives are important. The right motives bring health and nourishment to you and everyone, while the wrong motives bring dissatisfaction, pain, unrest, stress, and other negatives.
If we are building for other people’s validation that is most fleeting. It simply expands the empty hole we have because people are fickle in their praise and love.
If we are building to feel internal happiness that is a most fleeting reason as well. Happiness built on something outside ourselves is controlled by that very thing.
If we are building to silence a voice that once told us as kids that we are unloved, not good enough, or not enough period whatever we achieve is a mocking bandaid over a still festering wound. That wound needs other ways to heal first.
This is a strong article but do leave your thoughts on this? Do you feel anyway connected to this piece?