“Every one of us has a ‘magical something’—a relationship, job, achievement or possession—that we fantasize will rescue us from the treadmill that is real life… We call this fantasy of an effort-free, undemanding life ‘exoneration.'”
For some time now I’ve considered a career to be my own “special something”. More specifically, I catch myself seeing a coaching business as something that could bring me all the other things that make for a well-lived life: the ability to help in a meaningful way, a decent income, attractiveness, maturity and a sense of independence. But if I continue doing this, and base my sense of identity on the way I make a living, then I’d probably miss out on the ways that I can enjoy my life right now.
So I’ve been seeing a personal coach of my own now, who gave me the wake up call that if I can’t change myself, then there’s a much smaller chance that I’ll be able to help others change themselves. But nevermind what I could do to help other people – I’ll have to improve my life for the sake of it. The question is, what can I improve in my life regardless of where I’m at? It’s pretty clear to me at this point that I shouldn’t try to make a huge external change before being content with where I am.
There’s plenty of research done on the idea that after reaching certain goals, we quickly return to baseline level of happiness. The mechanism in our brain that continually searches for ways to satisfy itself is only shut off for a small amount of time before we go look for the next bigger and better thing. Nothing can satisfy it permanently, so there’s really no way to reach the end of the treadmill. Accomplishments are great and there’s nothing wrong with striving to reach them, but if that’s the only thing we focus on, then we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment.
What’s comforting for me, however, is reminding myself that I’ll be alright regardless of my circumstances. My dad tried to instill this idea in me when I was younger. I remember years ago he was driving us to the bank when he turned to me and said: “No matter what you end up doing just take care of your health. Even if you do end up living out of your car, you’ll be fine.” It’s stuck with me ever since, and he probably doesn’t even remember saying it. I know that in my case, following my heart/passion is going to involve a lot of uncertainty. The coaching career has appealed to me in large part because it would allow me to connect to people and help them out. You can probably tell that I don’t need to have a title in order for that feel that. One way I found I could experience these things is by asking people what the most difficult part of their day was. I’ll admit, this was a suggestion from my own coach, but it is helpful as a way to connect and contribute to people.
Wandering around Target aisles I came across an exhausted employee: “Need help finding anything?” he said to me as I walked by. He sighed as soon as I said no, that I was fine and just looking around. Still, I stopped to ask him: “What’s been the most difficult part of your day so far?” Without missing a beat, he said: “Probably around 2-4 pm, after all the churches around here got out.” All of us have inconveniences happening all day, so it’s nice to have someone willing to hear us out every now and then.
So what about you? Is there any way that you could experience the things you want in life now, instead of when you reach some destination? I’ll leave you with another passage:
“Four-fifths of the world’s people consider life a trial, a tribulation, a time of testing, a karmic debt that must be paid, a school with harsh lessons that must be learned, and, in general, an experience to be endured while awaiting the real joy, which is after death.”
– Neal Donald Walsch, Conversations with God