Enjoying the Process – Reaching Goals is Overrated

Is it worth it?

Random Observation/Comment #239: I am finding that more and more conversations with my peers have been focused on careers and happiness philosophies.  Why is everyone so lost at this age? Where am I?

At this particular stage of my life, my philosophy is the same as many of my peers – go with the flow and be happy along the way.  The interesting part, however, is that although the content of the thought may be the same, I feel like I am at a much later stage in my life.  I’m actually thinking more like a 55-year-old giving advice to my younger self to not waste life away, rather than an irrational 23-year-old spending an obscene amount of money in NYC.  Through the untrained eye, it may seem like the latter is true, but my excuses all lay within the former.

Let’s say, the goal in life is to insure the happiness and well-being of your close community (i.e. friends and family) in order to give yourself a purpose and position within this community.  We all want to be needed and remembered in some way, so what better way to do it than making people happy?  Although some people can be happy alone, I have come to terms with the fact that I am a social creature that feels lonely and weak without a social circle.  I feed off of my generosity to others because it makes me feel less disposable.  I am confident in what I provide to the community, and it’s not pathetic as to say that I want people to use me, but I do see a need to be accepted in some shape or form.  I’m strong enough to be different and unique, but probably not strong enough to be shunned by the rest of the world.

Anyway, if our goal is to be happy (which is not an unreasonable goal), we do a lot of planning and complete a lot of tasks to reach this goal.  We see so many things with a covetous eye because we think attaining such materials, positions, lifestyles, or whatever would take us to that happy state.  So with that goal in mind, we work hard and make sacrifices to reach that dream life or buy that flat screen TV.  And all along the way, we save money, work extra hours, and skim our life to make way for that new life with that big change.

Yet, once that goal is reached, that peak of happiness seems short-lived.  New goals appear or overlapping goals gain more interest once these things are crossed off the list.  Happiness turns to appreciation towards these possessions or situations, and things just get dull again until the next goal is reached.  What I see are long periods of sacrifice followed by short spikes in happiness.  That happiness or sense of accomplishment may be your moment of ecstasy to see all the hard work pay off, but new roles and responsibilities quickly take over as new challenges arise.

To me, this makes life a constant competition and an endless race.  You think you’re competing with your peers in order to have those moments to brag, or even just to keep up with their achievements and not lose your spot in the top 5, but once you reach the next level, your next level of peers will only bring you back to average.  Although anyone looking at you will say that you are anything but average, you’ll always think you’re mediocre because your ambition drives you further and further up.  But what is that final goal?  Is that race ever over?  When you die, did you win?

I am not saying this to make an excuse for laziness because I’m definitely not lazy.  I am not saying this to bash on ambition because I think an ambitious and career-driven person is essential to the hujman race having a future.  Actually, if it wasn’t for this ambition, capitalism and the open market would fail.  I am simply saying that some people are way too goal-oriented and therefore do not see the beauty of life along the way.  This was the most important thing I learned from my travels – the beauty of a simple life and the normalized standard of life.

I have a friend that claims that a vacation is not real life.  She claims that real life is filled with pain and disappointment; real life is supposed to be a struggle of sacrifices and hard work in order to reach higher standards; and real life is following the American dream of being that exception.  If that’s real life, than I rather stay dreaming.  I don’t understand why hard work means sacrifice if you’re working hard in something you’re genuinely interested in.  I don’t see why it’s wrong to be a cheerful person that hopes for the best and stays optimistic.  I don’t understand why people connect my current happiness with life as a lack of motivation to reach higher standards.

The truth is that I still have the same goals as most people.  I set a lot of liberal-arts-type or experience-driven goals because there’s just a part of me that puts a negative association to money.  I’ve just found that money corrupts and I wouldn’t want to work hard to lose my foot on the ground.  In some ways, just being lucky enough to have a roof over my head with electricity and running water would be some level of corruption.  There’s already so much I take for granted in life, I don’t want the value of earning a dollar to be one of them.  I wouldn’t want to see myself spend ridiculous money on luxury things that I wouldn’t essentially need just because I have more money than I can spend.

Much of life’s pleasures are very inexpensive – Beer? Wine? Mashed Potatoes? Actually, much of what I hold dear cannot be bought with all the money in the world.  You can’t buy inside jokes with friends or family bonding moments.  Well, it’s not even that you wouldn’t be able to obtain new things, it’s the fact that you can’t turn back time to get the youth that you’ve seen slip away because you worried too much about life milestones.  You may be able to put a dollar value on your time right now, but you can’t return that money to take your time back.  I rather enjoy the process and reach whatever goal I reach.  If I don’t get there right away, at least I could say I tried my best and had something to remember.

It’s simple – I’m not competing with anyone in my life, and all that chasing will always be just that – chasing.  What you have will never be enough, and if you think you need to be sad today to be happy tomorrow, it’s just important to know that tomorrow is never today.  “Let’s just stop talking about living and start living.”

~See Lemons Emphasize the Process