Learn to love the grind. That’s probably the only thing you should take away from this short post.
As we get closer to the goals we have set for ourselves, our standard for happiness simply rises along with our achievements. This is called “the hedonic treadmill”
We will always measure our life in contrast to where we were yesterday and not in the totality of our achievements.
We often think that life has an “end-game” – That illusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that’ll make you feel fulfilled & happy for a lifetime.If only you could reach $100k/year. If only that attractive girl would date you. If only you got those amazing abs
Then everything would be different, right? Different in a fundamentally life-changing way? Yeah… no. It doesn’t work out that way. Don’t get me wrong; It’ll make you somewhat happy – just not for a long time.
No matter where you are in life, there will always be that “extra something” you think you need, to become truly happy. Something you already know but needs reminding once-in-a-while. It’s easy to lose track of what really matters in our daily grind.
“Aim for an arc of small, consecutive victories throughout your entire life.” – Owen Cook
Relative Vs. Absolute Happiness
As we progress in life our “happiness-level” simply rises with us. Meaning every-time we achieve something great, we create a new “baseline” for happiness. As we achieve more we’ll need increasingly greater achievements to get that same “high” again.
As long as we are on the “up ‘n up” in life we’ll feel engaged and content. Conversely, when we’ve reached a certain plateau where we’ve stopped growing we’ll become less happy.
- If you get rejected today, it will still hurt – although you might have had it work out great in the past
- If you get a little bit chubbier you’ll still be displeased – although you might still be in better shape than a year ago
- If you lose a large amount of money you’ll still feel like crap – although you might be earning more money than ever before.
Frantically speeding towards the finish line is like a dog chasing its own tail.
There is NO finish line – only progress
If you stop progressing – you stop being happy. You can also see this in people who achieved great successes early on in their life;
Buzz Aldrin – The second man to set foot on the moon fell into depression and alcoholism when “coming back down to earth”. His baseline of achievement was set so high that everything simply faded in contrast.
“I really think that was the result of inherited tendencies which showed up in my mother’s side of the family,” he says. That was combined maybe with the intensity of the notoriety and then the aftermath of that notoriety and decisions as to what I was going to do next.”
What do you do after walking on the moon eh?
William “The Fridge” Perry – After plagued with insecurities because of his weight, he resorted to proving his self-worth through athletics. He battered his way up to the NFL and played for the Chicago Bears. After performing some remarkable athletic feats, (especially for a guy his size – 300lbs) gaining some incredible fame, he did advertisements for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Coca Cola & McDonalds. He joined pretty much every talk show you could imagine. Heck – He even got his own G.I. Joe action figure.
Yet what’s the man who “has got it all‘ going to do next?
“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning”. – Benjamin Franklin
People, after reaching a high degree of success, often fall into a void and get detached from their own sense of self. They’ve linked their own worth with their achievements. Yet – what happens when all that falls away? No more money, no more fame, , no more..Self?
Especially people who have reached an excessive degree of success can fall down the hardest. This leads to depression & escaping in drugs, alcohol, video-games, tv and food. The questions “what’s next? ” & “How am I going to beat my last performance” remains unsolved.
Don’t aim for excess – aim for progress. It’s not the absolutes that make you happy, yet we live in a society where it’s common to glorify “ideals“, especially where social media is so abundant and you constantly see fabricated images of how perfect everyone else is. Coined “The facebook-syndrome”
Todd Essig states that; “Trying to find worth by looking further up the ladder is pretty consistently a self-destructive endeavor.” So don’t. I’m not saying you shouldn’t chase big achievements & high benchmarks. You definitely should.
How else are you going to measure progress without some arbitrary benchmarks? It’s how we keep score when we’re playing this game called “life”
I’m saying you should focus on doing your best at playing the game and not the score. Focus on taking the actions that are necessary to grow yourself consistently and not the absolute outcome you might get.
- Focus on going to the gym consistently
- Focus on writing on your website consistently
- Focus on reading consistently
- Focus on building up your skills consistently
Just spread them out and don’t set your baseline impossibly high. Learn to love the process of growing and not frantically looking towards the end. It will only make you restless if you do.
Here’s some practical advice to take away;
- Set benchmarks for your life but focus on the process needed to get there. Focus on playing the game. The benchmarks are simply there to keep score.
- Measure your own life in absolutes by keeping a log of your life. I recommend a simple paper journal.
- Aim for small wins with visible, controllable results
Don’t think: “Where’s the end?” – since you’ll never really get there. Always think: “What’s next?” Just like Aesop’s fable goes; Slow and steady wins the race. And in this case…You win at life.