I am always chasing goals. I chase because I want things to happen. I chase because I can’t handle not finishing what I start. I chase because others chase and I’m afraid of being left behind.
But what if that is not the way? What if we already have what we’re already pursuing?
An Endless Pursuit
This may not be obvious at first glance. We don’t all actually already have a hidden bank with a couple of million dollars in it, nor do we have that perfect body or that super fast sports car that we always wanted as a child. But these things actually represent something greater. We may want money to feed our family. We want money to be able share gifts with those we care about so that we can see the joy on their faces. So we can be generous, which is a virtuous cause. I would argue that most of out external goals are simply reflections of the inner goals we feel we need to work on.
But those inner virtues; love, patience, generosity, leadership, compassion, passion….
We often say we cannot properly develop these until we’ve achieved the external goal. We put our development on hold. “I can’t spend time with my family until this project is done,” “Once I get that car, then I’ll be able to have patience for others,”
But how often does that happen? A goal, once achieved, is quickly followed by another and we often forget to make the change into the good people we want to be before moving on to the next. By then, we’ve already thought up some new deal to postpone being who we truly know we are. I don’t blame us for doing it. Society encourages this. If you’re not paying attention, you will be drawn in.
I’m starting to wonder if it is not so much about getting that next important thing. Maybe it’s about letting go of your need for it. Maybe it’s understanding that your life will not fall apart if you don’t delude yourself with the idea that something outside will change who you are inside.
A Look Inside
I am essentially unemployed at the moment. I have 2 jobs and yet I’m lucky to get more than a shift from either of them in a week. The past month has been hard for many reasons. Not mostly because I get ridiculously bored very quickly at home. Not mainly because I’m spending more money than I’m making and that puts my goals of a house, a car and travelling all on hold. No. These things hurt, but the real reason I’ve found it excruciating is that all this time has forced me to spend time with myself and nobody else. And I’ve realized I’m not such great company.
And so I have no choice but to face this person inside me. The one who floods me with negative thoughts and anxiety. He is scared and reminds me how dangerous the outside world is. He tells me about how inferior I am to my friends and family, to anyone who is working, has a life purpose, a significant other, anything that I want. When I am busy, I can drown him out with noise but now there’s no running or hiding.
This isolation and time has allowed me to realize where I have been lacking in life, or been unsatisfied. Friendships, love, career…I have become more aware of all of them. And as they have become visible to me, I have had to ask myself where they come from. Why are those rules and those fears and worries there? Who put them there? Was it me or someone else? Who have I been listening to?
I have begun to ask myself the hard questions whose answers have formed the basis of my approach to life, and some of them don’t make any sense to me. And I’ve begun to change some of them to something that matters to me. It’s been embarrassing, humiliating and upsetting at times but once the dust settles, the results feel good.
And you know something? I’m happier. Maybe I’m not pleased about being unemployed, nor does being alone most of the time bring me alot of joy. But these are external things. The real happiness is coming from somewhere deeper. It’s a satisfaction with myself, with who I am and what I stand for. I am feathering a pride deep within myself that before I was unconsciously smothering. I’m learning that I don’t have to fit the expectations of others and I certainly don’t need to internalize them into how I see life. I’m learning to let go of alot of the beliefs that I have thrust into my life without stopping to check whether they suit me or not.
I am learning to stand alone. But I am not alone. My family ad friends (who I choose) are there for me. My therapist is there whenever my outside life hits me a little too hard for me to process. My idols are there for me to aspire to be like. But I am enough and I always have been. I’d been so busy chasing others that I didn’t stop to remember that I have everything I need already. And now I am grateful that I stopped.